Fights, gunshots, numerous police calls, hit-and-run car collisions and an assault on a police officer outside the Heat Nightclub in Huber Heights were not sufficient evidence to keep the club from getting its liquor license back.
That was the conclusion last month of two Franklin County Common Pleas judges, Richard S. Sheward and Alan C. Travis, each of whom was not persuaded by the testimony of Huber Heights police, city officials and residents. Both issued rulings paving the way for the nightclub get its license back to serve liquor.
Two people were killed and another injured in a gunfight during the early morning hours Saturday outside the nightclub at 6115 Brandt Pike.
There was “no testimony or evidence” that Heat owner-manager Jessica Kennedy “had operated a liquor permit business in a manner that demonstrated a disregard for the laws, regulations or local ordinances of this state or any other state,” Sheward said in his decision upholding a 2-1 vote by the Ohio Liquor Control Commission in favor of Heat Nightclub’s right to sell alcohol. Travis, a visiting judge in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, issued the same ruling in a nearly identical case involving Heat Nightclub.
Huber Heights officials expressed frustration with the decisions but did not appeal either of them to the Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals.
Jackie Williams, executive director of the Ohio Liquor Control Commission that restored the club’s liquor license, called the events of the weekend “regrettable.”
“The commission takes its responsibility to review and make decisions on these cases seriously and strives to ensure that cases are decided fairly and in accordance with the law,” Williams said Monday. “The case before the commission involving the Heat Nightclub was reviewed and adjudicated according to the established process.”
Here is some of the evidence presented by Huber Heights in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court case that the judges — and the majority of the liquor control commission — found lacking:
Huber Heights Police Officer Brandon Sucher testified about police calls to Heat between November 2010 and May 2012 showing “noise complaints as well as multiple instances of crimes against persons, hit-and-run crashes emanating from the club, multiple large fights breaking out, assaults on police officers, calls requiring the city of Huber Heights to seek assistance from neighboring jurisdictions and calls involving crowd control and/or weapons violations,” attorneys representing Huber Heights said in court documents.
The police responded to 75 calls, making a total of 30 arrests, during a 72-week period, which means that on average, “Every single weekend the club has been in existence, Huber Heights police officers have been called to the premises to investigate illegal activity, much of which was alcohol-related,” the city’s attorneys said.
Testimony from the liquor-control commission hearing by Huber Heights Mayor Ronald Fisher, city council member Judy Blankenship, police officer Cory Siegrist, and three other city residents also was introduced as part of the city’s legal efforts to block the liquor license.
Kurt Gearhiser, attorney representing Heat Nightclub, wrote in his legal argument that there was no evidence of liquor-code citations filed against the club, nor was there evidence of criminal charges against employees for their actions inside the club.
As for the police calls, “Half of the calls for service involved noise complaints, and many of those calls and others proved to be either false calls, calls that could not be substantiated or issues that were resolved within a couple minutes from when police arrived,” Gearhiser wrote.
In the end, both judges agreed, as did two of the three members of the Ohio Liquor Control Commission, that the nightclub was entitled to its liquor license.
Matt Mullins — spokesman for the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control, the state agency that initially stripped the nightclub of its ability to renew its liquor license and was later overruled by the liquor-control commission — said Monday, “We respect the ruling of the Court and this independent commission, but we disagree with their decision.”