BEVERLY - A formal objection to the renewal of the Valley Inn liquor license failed to get support from Beverly City Council Wednesday.
The objection lost with a vote of 5 to 1. Council voted on the issue after objections to the renewal were raised at November's city council meeting.
At that time, Mayor Rex Kenyon expressed concerns about allowing the renewal of the license to go forward following the death of a bar patron in August. Kenyon is also concerned about the safety of Beverly's one officer on duty responding to potential incidents at the bar.
The only member of council to support the objection was Kenyon's wife, Beth Kenyon.
Once the issue was brought to the floor, the discussion was opened to members of the public.
Jared Case, owner of B&W Pharmacy and Appletree Assisted Living, supports renewing the liquor license. He said shutting down one business could threaten others.
"We have a vested interest in how our businesses are treated," Case said, adding that the area businesses make up an ecosystem.
"When a part of the ecosystem is in danger, the rest becomes threatened," Case said.
Case said it would be a good idea to keep money in the community instead of having it spent elsewhere.
John Young, owner of the Valley Inn, also made a statement to council.
Young said three fights in the last year did not make his establishment a dangerous place.
"Three fights in the last year is nothing," Young said. "I'm not trying to downplay it but there are other establishments that have more fights."
Young said past statements by an EMS technician saying the workers on the EMS squad were threatened were false. He said another claim about someone throwing a stretcher onto Ohio 60 was also false.
Kenyon argued many of the customers of the Valley Inn who ended up in court were picked up for drunken driving, domestic violence or disturbing the peace after leaving the Valley Inn.
"There's been a pattern of them coming from the Valley (Inn)," Kenyon said.
Young said eight calls to the police in 18 months does not warrant trying to close the establishment. He said many fights are broken up without police intervention and the perpetrators are asked to leave.
Still, Kenyon said the fact that only one officer is dispatched puts the officer in a lot of danger.
"It's not the fact that you call (the police)," Kenyon said. "It's the fact that you're putting the officers at risk."
Kenyon brought up the death of John L. Duncan, 39, of Malta, a Valley Inn customer. Witnesses reported that Duncan was involved in a fight at the Valley Inn the night before his body was discovered in the Muskingum River canal near the bar. His death remains under investigation but at the time police said they did not suspect foul play.
In addition, a photo displayed at the last council meeting was a hot topic of debate. The photo featured motorcycles lined up in front of the Valley Inn.
Kenyon brought up possible gang activity.
Case said many area businesses support motorcyclists and do business with them. He wondered if intense scrutiny on other businesses was to follow.
"It happens at the bank, it happens at NAPA," Case said, adding that Kenyon had taken the photo out of context.
"Are you trying to run them out of town so we can't do business with them?" Case asked.
"Maybe it's gang activity," Kenyon replied.
There has been no reported gang activity in the last year, police said.
Young said the instance Kenyon is speaking of was a poker run just months ago.
One resident pointed out that it was the Shrine Club hosting the poker run at the Valley Inn because "they realize it is a safe environment," adding that "they make a lot of money for charity."
Councilwoman Kandy Baker said that while the objection failed and the Valley Inn can still get its liquor license, the state could still do something about it.
"(The Valley Inn can get its permit) unless the state comes in and shuts them down," Baker said. "I don't think that will happen, but (the state) still has that option."