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In-Depth: Cleveland in midst of gas station liquor permit battle

In-Depth: CLE in the midst of gas station liquor permit battle
Posted at 10:26 PM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 13:37:15-05

CLEVELAND — Cleveland city leaders and some residents living in the city's Glenville neighborhood are in a battle to remove the liquor permit of a business they believe has been a haven for crime and violence over the the past 18 months.

Cleveland council members Michael Polensek and Anthony Hairston took the first step in quashing the liquor permit of Gas USA located at the corner of St. Clair Avenue and East 123rd Street.

The Ohio Division of Liquor Control denied the business owners liquor permit renewal request.

“This establishment has been a major source of violence in the Glenville neighborhood,” Councilman Polensek said. “When I hear elderly women tell me they are afraid to walk down the street because of the characters hanging at this establishment, my response is this is totally unacceptable and outrageous. And the owners and operators of this business would never tolerate this type of behavior in the suburbs where they live. We refuse to accept it in the Glenville neighborhood.”

Polensek pointed to Cleveland police reports and police calls to the location over a 13 month period, which were noted in the liquor commission report.

“In support of these complaints from January of 2019 through December of 2020, there were 23 Cleveland Police Department incident reports for the gas location," the report noted. "These included seven felonious assaults, eight assaults, a homicide on July 6, 2020, three menacing, one ethnic intimidation, two carrying a concealed weapon, and another homicide on Nov. 4, 2020. Also, on Dec. 20, 2020, two customers were shot near the gas pumps."

Kevin Brennan, attorney for Gas USA, said he will appeal the division of liquor decision and issued the following statement in response to our story:

The City of Cleveland experienced a 44% increase in the number of murders in the City for 2020 over the previous year, as well as an increase in the overall number of violent crimes.

These crimes are occurring around all businesses in the area of East 123rd and St. Clair, including Gas USA. The increase in the number of violent crime is due in part to the decrease in the number of police officers on the street, it is not due to law-abiding citizens operating businesses that serve the neighborhoods hardest hit by the increase in crime.

In April 2020, Gas USA entered into a Cooperation Agreement with the City of Cleveland. Under the Agreement Gas USA agreed to a number of changes to help deter crime including:

1. Hiring security personnel or off-duty Cleveland Police Officers to patrol the station during the busiest hours;

2. Installation of additional cameras and a camera system that maintains the video files for a minimum of 72 hours;

3. Installation of signage advising the public that no loitering or drug activity is permitted on or about the business property;

4. Installation of additional lighting on the exterior of the premises.

The Ohio Division of Liquor Control told News 5 Gas USA has until July to file its appeal with the Ohio Liquor Commission.