Akron City Council withdrew an objection to the liquor license this week after mistaking a low-key lounge bar with a nearby private club with ties to a former Ohio State University football star.
Hookah Center, a private club located at 1924 Buchholzer Blvd., is of growing concern to law enforcement and other businesses at a struggling mall across from the old Chapel Hill Mall.
The club opened last month as All Is Possible Productions LLC., A company registered as Chris “Beanie” Wells, a top running back for Akron Garfield High School and OSU.
A message left in Wells was not returned on Tuesday.
The mall owner is now trying to evict the club, which removed the eviction notice from its front door and continued to host after-hours parties.
Since opening in August, the evenings have been potentially linked to altercations, including a fatal shooting earlier this month in the parking lot.
Problem from the start
The Hookah Center has always attracted unwanted attention since it opened about five weeks ago, according to police, elected officials and neighboring businesses.
Rayveen Wilson, a bartender at the Wild Lotus Lounge next door, said he witnessed stabbing in the parking lot and a woman slamming her car into a man during the first two weekends of events.
A sign on the main double-door glass entrance to the Hookah Center reads “PRIVATE PLACE” with a number to text for a list of upcoming events.
The private club distinction prohibits the police from intervening to monitor alcohol consumption, verify age or keep the peace. Instead, a $ 20 cover charge gives guests the option to bring their own bottles of booze and beer while watching strippers or listening to live music performances for up to 4 hours. in the morning.
The Wild Lotus asks its more mature audience to leave before 2:30 a.m.
Surveillance footage from the Wild Lotus confirms that the lounge was nearly empty at around 2:35 a.m. September 4. As Wilson went about his closing duties, a series of gunshots erupted next door.
Videos posted to social media show young men and women inside the Hookah Center curling up in balls on the floor, making their bodies as small as possible to avoid being shot as customers shunned the noise of the crowd. gunshots rushing through the front door.
At 2:52 a.m., police arrived to find Dyron Miley, 23, from Akron in the parking lot with a gunshot wound to the head. Officers administered first aid until paramedics arrived. Doctors at Summa Akron City Hospital declared Miley’s death within an hour.
Wild Lotus wrongly identified by the city as a hotspot
Ward 2 Councilor Phil Lombardo mistook the hookah center for the bar next door when he saw the owner of the Wild Lotus Bar and Grill at 1922 Buchholzer Blvd. was asking the Ohio Liquor Control Commission to transfer the liquor license.
A native of Florida, Paul Trott opened the Wild Lotus almost a year ago at Brubaker’s Pub, one of the many empty or redeveloped storefronts in the mall owned by the Chen Family Akron Limited Trust Co.
Lombardo received full council support when the elected body held a preliminary vote on Monday afternoon asking the state to block the transfer of liquor licenses.
At the committee meeting on Monday, the Beacon Journal asked Lombardo if he had the right place. So he drove his truck to the bar to see for himself.
Upon arrival, Wilson, bartender and manager Ken Hogan greeted Lombardo in the dimly lit lounge bar with neon-lit high chairs and leather sofas. They weren’t opening for a few hours, but Wilson wanted to speed up the cleanup.
This was not the bar that City Attorney Gert Wilms, speaking in favor of the liquor license objection, had just described to council. Wilms had also confused the establishment with its more rowdy neighbor.
“They are different people there,” Wilson said. “They are wild.”
Akron City Council withdrew the objection to the liquor license.
A Beanie Wells Company
Akron Police Lt. Mike Miller said detectives believed operators at the Hookah Center were trying to pin chaos on the Wild Lotus, which may have added to the confusion on Monday.
A boss of the Wild Lotus, who is authorized by state law to serve alcohol pending the transfer of the liquor license, showed police at the scene a bullet impact in his car.
Police reports indicate a generic address for the parking lot. An evening “after hours” is mentioned but no establishment, according to a police official.
Days before the fatal shooting, Lombardo said he and Akron Police Captain Kris Beitzel went to speak with the owners of the Hookah Center. Lombardo said he met a man who said his uncle had an interest in running the club.
“I’m all about safety,” the man repeated. Then he dropped the name of Beanie Wells, an outstanding Garfield High School running back and NFL draft pick who played under coach Jim Tressel at Ohio State University.
Wells is the listed owner of All Is Possible Productions LLC., The company the owner is now trying to evict.
Wells could not be reached for comment via Columbus Radio Station where he hosts a morning show. A message was left with an autoresponder on the other end of a phone number listed for the Hookah Center.
Business has slowed since the September 4 shooting
Trott said he tries to give people a safe and relaxed place to watch a football game or have a drink at the Wild Lotus. Business has been slower than usual since the shooting on Saturday morning September 4.
That night and the following weekend, Trott closed his bar out of caution, to respect the slain young man and to allow a candlelight vigil in Miley’s honor. The Hookah Center, meanwhile, opened its doors the following night, letting women in for free if they wore lingerie.
Miller said Akron police increased their patrols when bars and private establishments were to close and neighborhood response teams, who focus on nuisance and quality of life issues, were made aware of their location. .
Hookah Center’s version of the story
Fifteen hours after the deadly shooting, McClendon emailed Akron’s mayor, prosecutor, city council and police to dispute any connection to the violence.
McClendon argued that demands for pay from Akron Police and County Sheriffs to ensure job safety at the Hookah Center events were ignored because “this is a black establishment.” He called the police and media who describe his club as an “after hours” place “disrespectful and incorrect”.
The night in question began as an after party for a Wild N ‘Out Akron showcase at a Market Street event center, McClendon said.
“Although an altercation broke out inside our room, there was no gunfire inside our facility,” wrote McClendon, who did not respond to the request. Beacon Journal interview, in its email to city officials. “Shortly after 2:30 p.m. [a.m.] the place was in the process of being vacated due to the events inside when the sounds of gunfire erupted from the parking lot. Customers then began to attempt to run towards the cars, but they turned around and ran into our facility due to the bullet exploding near their parked vehicles. “
McClendon’s concerns echoed those of the promoter of Mature Lounge on Main Street in downtown Akron, where the bar operator said another fatal shooting took place away from the bar after police ignored requests to occupy an after-hours security post.
“Knowing the recent increase in violence, we were hoping to build a safety blanket for those who frequent the area and people in general when it comes to the northern neighborhood of Akron,” McClendon wrote. “I have the impression that our needs are not being met because of the ability of the powers that be to simply shut down our businesses and move them forward.”
In his email, McClendon said he hoped officials and could come together to provide a “beacon of quality entertainment services in the city” safely.
“I am a realist,” he said. “And I know it’s more the people of my own background that are causing these problems to the community. I’m also a capitalist, which means I can see the demand value of a place where people in my population can go have fun. “
Contact reporter Doug Livingston at [email protected] or 330-996-3792.