City to Gay Bar Owner, Site of Anti-Gay Attacks: Stop Calling 911
September 12th, 2013
Cocktails Lounge, on Cleveland’s West Side, has been the scene of at least two designated hate crimes in less than a week and at least six attacks on patrons since spring. Two weeks ago, Jared Fox was surrounded by a gang of juveniles, beaten and robbed while they shouted anti-gay epithets. These things are the kind of attacks that can happen in any American city, but they’re happening in Cleveland now, where the City’s Director of Public Safety, Martin Flask, is on the case: he sent a letter to the bar’s owners demanding that they stop calling 911 so often:
Our records indicate from September 02, 2012 through September 01, 2013 Cleveland Police Officers and/or Dog warden have been dispatched and responded to your property located at 9208 Detroit Avenue inns for various Calls for service. Repeated calls to the same property place an and inappropriate burden on the taxpayers of the City of Cleveland and on our safety forces. The estimated cost for the city safety forces to respond to your property is approximately $100.00 per call for service.
l am confident that we share the same goal and that you will take the necessary steps to eliminate the repeated calls for police services to your property. Therefore, within 10 days of the date of this letter, you will be required to submit your action plan to the First District Neighborhood Police Commander (623-5105), outlining your strategy to eliminate the problems at this location.
Cocktails Lounge manager James Foster was appalled at the letter.
Foster said what’s most frustrating is that the majority of those police calls didn’t have to do with the lounge itself. Instead, managers and patrons called about incidents happening near the lounge.
“It’s your neighborhood bar, everybody knows everybody, everybody’s got nicknames,” said Mary Wishar, a regular at Cocktails who describes the lounge as friendly and safe.
Outrage erupted on social media yesterday after the letter went public. City Councilman Jay Westbrook, who represents the ward where Cocktails is located, said, “Just when we thought we were turning a corner with these incidents, the safety director shot us in the foot.” Mayor Frank Jackson ordered Flask to rescind the letter:
“If I had to do it over again, I would have handled this particular situation differently,” Flask said. “After reviewing this issue with Mayor (Frank) Jackson, he has directed me to rescind the letter and instead set up a meeting with the District Commander and the property owners so that we can work together to address the issues raised by the calls for service to 9208 Detroit Avenue.”
Lyons could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. The letter said 13 police reports were filed over the one-year period for everything from fights to robbery. None of the calls, Flask said, involved hate crimes currently being investigated by police.
“(I)t is an early warning letter that the Department of Public Safety sends to property owners to help prevent a location from becoming a ‘nuisance property’” Flask said. “224 such letters have already been sent to various property owners this year.”
Cleveland was selected to host the Gay Games in 2014.