WARREN - The corporation that runs a popular downtown Warren restaurant is suing its old neighbor, the Sunset Lounge, and several people associated with the now-closed nightclub, claiming in part that the group engaged in a pattern of activity to ruin the restaurant.
The civil racketeering claim is among several allegations Sunrise Inn of Warren Inc. makes in a lawsuit filed in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. Named in the 18-page lawsuit Tuesday are:
Blue Magoo's Ventures, which operated as Sunset Lounge, 480 E. Market St.;
Joe Sankey Jr. of Warren, owner of Blue Magoo's Ventures and licensed bail bondsman for Warren businessman Robert Cregar;
Dream Team Promotions, the management company that leased the building at the intersection of East Market Street and Elm Road and the former operator and license holder of the Sunset Lounge;
LaShawn P. Ziegler of Warren, owner of Dream Team Promotions;
Cregar of Newton Falls, owner of the property listed as the business address for Dream Team Productions;
Five ''John Doe'' defendants.
Perhaps the most serious of the 11-count lawsuit that seeks $1.2 million to $3.7 million in damages are racketeering claims against Sankey, Ziegler and Cregar.
The three and unknown others are accused in the lawsuit of forming an association and engaging in racketeering activity ''intending by fraud and other illegal acts'' at Sunset Lounge to ''ruin'' Sunrise Inn, cost it ''large'' sums of money and ''to redirect the funds of the Sunset Lounge to the bail bonding businesses and other businesses'' owned by Cregar.
The lawsuit also claims their actions violate Ohio's Corrupt Practices Act.
Sankey, Ziegler and Cregar declined to comment.
Other claims made in the lawsuit include the Sunset being a nuisance during the time it was open, from about May 2012 to Jan. 1, there were at least 28 police calls there. Also, harm was intended to Sunrise by calling the bar, ''virtually next door'' to the Sunrise, ''Sunset'' Lounge.
It goes on to claim that ''Sunset'' is not a registered trade name and the use of that name was a ''deliberate attempt'' to cause confusion and misunderstanding as to any connection with Sunset.
Also, the lawsuit asks the court to ''pierce the corporate veil'' of Blue Magoo's Ventures and Dream Team Promotions, claiming the companies are a ''mere facade'' for the operations of Sankey and Ziegler.
In a statement released by Sunrise Inn owner Ken Haidaris, he says the lawsuit was filed because the agreement between Warren and Sunset to close the bar ''failed to protect the Sunrise's business.''
Haidaris' issues are with the agreement not having a date, ''so there is no way to know when the agreement went into effect,'' according to his statement. Haidaris also says a check Tuesday with the Ohio Department of Liquor Control shows, according to the state's records, the permit is not in safekeeping.
''The whole point of the Settlement Agreement was to stop the Sunset Lounge from doing business and the disposition of the liquor permit was an integral part of the protection to my business and the public,'' Haidaris said.
If the permit has not been disposed of, Haidaris said, it puts Sunrise ''at risk'' to further criminal activity.
''If the City had wanted to permanently prevent the Sunset Lounge from creating a public 'nuisance,' then a much more restrictive Settlement Agreement should have been achieved to protect the public,'' Haidaris said.
Warren Law Director Gregory V. Hicks said the date was accidentally taken off the agreement when it was created by his office, but ''if it ever came to a debate, it would be no problem establishing the date,'' using testimony from people there the day it was signed.
Regarding the issue Haidaris raises over holding the permit in safekeeping, Hicks said the state advised that putting the license in safekeeping was not the right method. Instead, it recommended using ''temporary closing authority,'' he said.
Ohio code says this is for a permit holder unable to operate or who desires to discontinue the operation for more than 30 days, but closing authority is not allowed to extend beyond 180 days from the last date of operation, ''except for good cause.''
The code also says that if the permit holder is unwilling or unable to resume operation, the liquor control division shall not renew the permit.
The agreement also calls for Sankey to relinquish his food service operation permit and to terminate the lease with Dream Team Promotions. Taking the settlement agreement route, Hicks said, allowed the city to close the Sunset immediately, rather than file a nuisance abatement action in court
Hicks said the bar is closed, the signs are gone and the licenses have been turned back over to the issuers. ''Bottom line,'' he said, ''it's not open.''
''How much more restrictive can be,'' he said.
The Sunset has been closed since the a 25-year-old Warren man was shot to death at the bar on New Year's Day.