Youngstown council at odds over liquor license for bar where mass shooting happened

Local News

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown City Council Wednesday considered three resolutions to object to the renewal of liquor permits at three city bars, two of which were approved and one that was not.

The one bar council did not approve objecting to was the Torch Club on Salt Springs Road. That is the same place where two weeks ago there was a mass shooting. Council was OK with the Torch Club staying open.

Council did, however, vote to object to the renewal of liquor licenses for the Downtown Circle bar on West Federal Street and for the All City Sports Bar on Mahoning Avenue.

Council’s objections will now be forwarded to the Ohio Liquor Control Commission.

The Downtown Circle bar is in councilman Julius Oliver’s First Ward. Oliver voted against the recommendation for all three bars, including the All City Sports Bar and the Torch Club.

“Since I’ve been on council, it’s mainly been black and brown business establishments that have gone up for revoking their licenses,” Oliver said.

Samantha Turner was the only other council member who voted no on all three.

“I’m not 100% convinced that as a city, we’re doing our due diligence on all fronts to ensure that we are supporting these businesses in an equitable manner,” Turner said.

There’s was little debate about recommending the liquor license for the All City Sports Bar be denied. It’s now closed and boarded up. But when the Torch Club Liquor license was discussed, Police Chief Carl Davis pointed on the mass shooting of May 23.

“17 mass shootings that occurred in the United States and Youngstown was on that list. We made that list. One of 17 mass shootings that occurred that weekend,” Davis said.

Deputy Law Director Dana Lantz said no bars are targeted for any other reason than they have proven to be a nuisance in their neighborhoods.

“We are over-issued in liquor permits in this city. We are over-saturated based on our population, which is what drives a lot of these issues because there’s competition for business,” Lantz said.

In the end, council voted 5-2 against denying the Torch Club the renewal of its license. Only councilwoman Lauren McNally and Councilman Mike Ray, whose ward the Torch Club is in, voted yes.

“I would say that it deeply saddens me that my colleagues did not support the objection to the liquor license at the Torch Bar. This is my neighborhood. I heard the gunshots. I saw the ambulances go by my house with the bodies. This is a matter of public safety, and I apologize to my constituents. I feel like I failed them today,” Ray said.

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