WARREN - The sun may have set on Sunset Lounge.
After two postponed hearings, the lawyer for the Sunset Lounge, 480 E. Market St., stipulated to three of five charges filed against the holder of the liquor license, so testimony was not given during a teleconference Thursday afternoon.
Prior to the hearing, attorney James Sanders, representing the city, and Dennis DiMartino, representing building owner and license holder Joseph Sankey Jr., agreed to the charges of failure to notify the division of liquor control of a change of an ownership interest, that a felon had an interest in the liquor permit, and that liquor had been purchased from an unauthorized dealer are factually true.
The Sunset Lounge is up for sale. Tribune file photo
The charges stem from an investigation of the bar by state agents last summer.
Two other charges were eliminated.
The attorneys will send the agreed-upon stipulations to the state to be reviewed and wait for a ruling.
Warren City Council originally filed to prevent the license from being renewed after police reported more than 20 services calls at the bar during a four-month period last year.
Sanders said that if necessary, the city also would have presented police reports about the New Year's Day shooting death of Cory Blackwell, 25, inside the bar, and evidence of a partnership agreement between Sankey and LaShawn Ziegler.
Ziegler, a convicted felon, was found to have had hidden ownership in the bar and to have helped in its operation, even though terms of his probation prohibit him from entering liquor establishments.
"We were ready to present approximately 10 witnesses," Sanders said. "We would have been able to show that a felon had an interest in the business and that he violated state statutes."
The unauthorized purchases charge stemmed from sales receipts found at the bar showing that alcohol had been purchased from a grocery store that was not the authorized agency store listed on the Sunset's liquor permit.
Councilman Greg Bartholomew, D-4th Ward, said he was surprised the sides came to an agreement and that a complete hearing with testimony was not held.
"We had a rock-solid case," Bartholomew said. "We had plenty of evidence and plenty of witnesses. They were in a no-win situation and threw up the flag."
Ken Haidaris, the owner of Sunrise Inn, 510 E. Market St., which is across the street from Sunset, said he was pleased the two sides came to an agreement.
"The violence affected our sales," he said.
Haidaris emphasized that he wants a new business in the building.
"I don't want an empty building next door," Haidaris said. "However, I want something respectable. I don't want a business that will drive customers away."
Haidaris said since Sunset closed in early January, business at Sunrise has increased.
Sankey agreed to voluntarily close the bar and place the liquor license with the state in January after Blackwell's death to prevent city officials from closing the bar for up to a year due to it being a nuisance.
Since that time the building has been put up for sale.