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by Fern Shen6:05 pmApr 29, 20140

Stark slice of city life at renewals hearings

A prayer vigil outside a liquor store and a man with a crossbow in the door of a bar

Above: Residents, including City Councilman Nick Mosby, protesting the renewal of Orem Liquors in Reservoir Hill. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Whether they succeed and persuade the Liquor Board to sanction a problem bar or fail under tough questioning and walk away empty-handed, the people coming in for the “protest of renewal” process in recent weeks have some bar-centric, vivid and troubling tales to tell about city life.

Sometime Rebecca Lundberg Witt’s Community Law Center-sponsored Booze News blog is as much a sad saga, as a primer for liquor regulation reform advocates.

Pastor Basha Jordan, from Hope Alive Ministries and Deliverance Fellowship, testified on April 17th about how the Parkview/Woodbrook neighborhood is overrun with drug activity, Witt wrote. (He was protesting the renewal of Orem Liquors at 2300 Orem Avenue.)

Jordan, who runs a men’s recovery house nearby, called House of Hope, said he is a licensed clinician for drugs and alcohol.

“As the drug problem has escalated at the store, Pastor Jordan took his church to the corner and held a prayer vigil right in front of the store,” Witt wrote.

“He testified that addiction is a spiritual problem, citing a sign in the window that says, ‘Spirits Sold Here.’ He testified further about liquor in the community, saying that alcohol is the number one drug in America and is the ‘number one killer of our people.’”

Orem’s license was renewed but Interim Chairwoman Elizabeth C. Smith and Commissioner Harvey E. Jones voted to suspend it for six months, saying the neighbors had been able to cite specific instances of drug dealing.

A Crossbow, but Loaded or Unloaded?

During the protest of Lears II, at 3500 O’Donnell Street in Canton, the complaints included not just alleged drug-dealing and public urination but an unusual weapon one man said he’d seen at the bar.

“Jamison Ernst testified that he had seen someone with a crossbow standing right in front of the door of Lears II, pointing it around,” Witt wrote.

Questioning him, licensee Joseph J. Lear, Jr. asked Ernst whether the crossbow was loaded? Ernst replied that he wasn’t sure.

“A bow with no arrow, doesn’t seem dangerous to me,” Lear said, according to Witt’s account. “All of a sudden, you people!”

The license was renewed, but suspended for 30 days, with Interim Chairwoman Smith, faulting the licensee for his management and observing that there was “clearly a generational divide between Lears II and his current neighbors.”

Witt caught some dialogue that captured what Smith was talking about:

In his final rebuttal and conclusion, Mr. Lear said that he “think[s] the [protestants] want the bar gone because it’s high priced houses they paid for. They’re just upset because I’m there. The bar has been there since 1934.”

Mr. Lear’s wife, in the audience, during the breaks in the Board’s hearing, stated (loudly, for all of the audience to hear) about the protestants: “Bunch of snobs. They all have money.”

Mr. Lear turned to her during another break and asked if she recognized any of the protestants, and she said, “I don’t know ’em and I don’t want to know ’em. They think they’re better than us.”

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