YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – After one month since being forcefully closed, the general manager of The Social, a bar in downtown Youngstown, is speaking out, saying his bar has been discriminated against.
“I was told personally and then also our boss as well, the owner was told personally, ‘It needs to be 25 and up as well with no hip hop, stop hiring certain DJs, you need to get this Black crowd out of here,” said Brandon Rios, general manager of The Social.
Rios says this was told to him by Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown after he went to the mayor for guidance weeks before being closed down.
However, Mayor Brown told us this is not true and he never told them to get the “Black crowd” out. He said he did have a conversation with Rios and recommended raising the age requirement. He said he also told Rios that they need to handle the crowd and should tone down the music.
The Social was closed in August after allegations of underage drinking, fights and disturbances. However, Rios says the allegations do not line up with the truth.
“We’re in the spotlight. We’re in downtown Youngstown. You really think we’re gonna let underage drinking and guns and drugs just happen without notice?” Rios said.
City Law Director Jeff Limbian said they did not do a good job at following protocol and running the bar correctly.
“If not condoning the drug use and underage alcohol use, then they certainly turned a blind eye to it, and it was a terrible display of abuse of their discretion and of the city’s safety,” Limbian said.
“Mistakes were made, you know. We’re not perfect, but we’ve tried our very best to make sure that if it happened once, it never happened again, so we can’t say that, you know, there wasn’t underage drinking, and if there were, we took care of that immediately. I made sure of it, my bartenders made sure of it, my security made sure of it,” Rios said.
Rios stated they had five security guards every weekend and that he and others would stand outside every night working to keep the peace.
Rios says on many occasions, he reached out to city officials seeking guidance on how to improve The Social, but he said he did not receive much feedback.
“We’ve reached out for help. We’ve reached out for advice from other places. We’ve taken precautionary steps to make sure our building is safe — gates, metal detectors, everything you can do to make sure that what we are doing is legal and within our rights of it,” Rios said.
However, Mayor Brown disagrees, telling us he tried to help.
Rios feels shutting down the bar is not the answer. He says the crowd will just move from one bar to the next, and the problem will continue.
“If you don’t confront those issues, then these people go to other bars throughout the city, and then they’re scared and they get killed or they get shot at or something happens so the only place they feel safe is downtown. And when it’s a certain crowd that’s being discriminated against, how can you fight against that?” Rios said.
“We’re monitoring every other bar in which there’s potentially underage drinking and any potential drug use, and if it goes somewhere else, we’ll go there and shut that down as well,” Limbian said.
A hearing is set for November 30 to determine if the bar will remain closed permanently.