City to Gay Bar Owner, Site of Anti-Gay Attacks: Stop Calling 911

Jim Burroway

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.

DenguyFL

September 12th, 2013

A nuisance business is one that receives more than its share of police complaints. this IS a nuisance business. There is no indication that these weren’t drunk patrons leaving. If you have these problems, you don’t go to the webisphere. You hire an off-duty cop. But that would cut into your net. Solution? Stop going until they do hire that cop and show that you, the patron, is more important to the dollar signs.

The allusion to the Gay Games is a non-sequitor. This has to do with police calls to their property not the fact that it is gay. Sorry we are not being persecuted here. The ownership of the bar should be stepping up. Guess it is going not going to be their fault when someone sues them for what happens on their unsafe property next.

Richard Rush

September 12th, 2013

DenguyFL, your comment reads like it was written 40+ years ago: Sure, if its a gay bar, then by definition it was a nuisance business. The patrons couldn’t be victims of attacks; they were just getting what they deserved from courageous people with high moral standards. If the cops showed up, their priority would likely be to make sure the attackers were not harmed. The lesson was that if you don’t want to be attacked, don’t go to a gay bar. It was common for bars to hire off-duty cops for “protection,” but the proper term was extortion.

How do I know this? I lived through it.

Richard Rush

September 12th, 2013

“The letter said 13 police reports were filed over the one-year period . . .”

Would I be correct to assume that 13 is also the number of 911 calls over that one-year period? I’ve personally called the police more than 13 times over a one-year period to complain about a barking dog and its owner blasting “music” while playing drums on the other side of our rowhouse party-wall. The police came each time, and it was uncanny how they would imply that our job as the victims was to find a way to accommodate the offenders. We did NOT receive a letter from the city*. (We finally got rid of those renters, no thanks to the police.)

*not Cleveland

Gene in L.A.

September 12th, 2013

Denguy, If you consider citizen calls for police assistance to be “police complaints,” maybe it says more about you than anything about the situation. If “there is no indication that these weren’t drunk patrons leaving,” there’s also no indication they were; and IF they were, are drunk patrons not deserving of protection from attack? Your last sentence seems to indicate you blame the PROPERTY for the problem, rather that what the article clearly describes as personal attacks on patrons. I guess you’ve never heard of a gay bar becoming a target of homophobes. Frankly, I’m astounded by your response on this page.

Lord_Byron

September 12th, 2013

I too assume that 13 police reports means 13 calls over a one year period. I can’t believe that someone thinks an average of one call a month, a little more I know, is a problem.

Hunter

September 12th, 2013

Flask must be exceptionally boneheaded — to cite 13 calls for incidents off the property, even if nearby, and avoid any mention of attacks on the patrons and the bar itself?

CPT_Doom

September 12th, 2013

I’m sure glad I wasn’t considered a nuisance for calling 911 when those gay bashers smashed my face in with a brick 9 yrs ago. Clearly I should have known better than to be on the streets as an openly gay man.

Perhaps Mr. Flask would prefer the LGBT community in Cleveland resort to vigilante justice? A few gay men armed with guns and baseball bats indiscriminately attacking random straight men in the neighborhood would do the trick, right?

(Note, the above is snark)

Nathaniel

September 12th, 2013

Jim,
Your sentence “Two weeks ago, Jared Fox was surrounded by a gang of juveniles, beaten and robbed while shouting anti-gay epithets.” makes it sound like “Jared Fox was… shouting anti-gay epithets…” while he was being “surrounded…, beaten and robbed.” Might I suggest a change to something like “Two weeks ago, a gang of juveniles, shouting anti-gay epithets, surrounded, beat and robbed Jared Fox.”

On a different note, while I see where DenguyFL is coming from, it does seem a bit ridiculous for city officials to expect any given business to resolve criminal issues in its neighborhood. The letter seems more appropriate for, say, an apartment complex with unruly inhabitants. And even then, such issues are not cut-and-dry (ex: domestic violence).

Don

September 12th, 2013

It’s very likely that the main reason the calls were originating at that address is that they were the only business open at that time in the vicinity where the crimes happened. If I were attacked and had no cell phone (or it was stolen) I would look for the nearest open business to summon help from.

Proximity to a crime is not a crime. Assisting a victim of a crime by calling authorities should not be considered a burden to the police or to the taxpayer.

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