Sommerville questions city cost to fight liquor permits

November 03, 2009

Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville asked the city’s law department for a report of the number of hours and resources spent fighting liquor permit applications.

Sommerville made the request Monday night to gain a clearer picture of how much the city spends to defend residents’ objections to liquor permits before the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.

 While some residents may be justified in their objections, Sommerville said, the cost to defend them does not appear to be worth the effort as more permits are granted than denied at the end of the day.

“A lot of people want to fight liquor permits, and many times the fights can’t be won,” Sommerville (W-3) said. “To continue to spend money on attorneys, filing paperwork and sending representatives to Columbus knowing we can’t win appears counterproductive.

“As we cut back on spending, this is something we need to be aware of.”

Just because an establishment has a bad reputation or residents don’t want it in the neighborhood doesn’t mean its application to renew or transfer a liquor permit will be denied, Sommerville said. Council members who receive resident objections to permits must prove that granting an establishment’s permit application will disrupt the peace and sobriety of a neighborhood.

Sommerville said once Council reviews the law department’s report, he may recommend establishing criteria that must be met before a Council member takes up an objection to a permit application.

“If an establishment is a nuisance, that may help an argument for permit denial, but many times when people are opposing permits the establishment hasn’t met the nuisance criteria,” Sommerville said. “Meanwhile, I see no need to spend resources we don’t have.

“What is the threshold to make an issue go to the Liquor Control Board? If it doesn’t meet the criteria, perhaps it should not go to board.”