Worthington leaders will oppose the renewal of a liquor permit for the bar where a double homicide occurred in November.
Worthington City Council voted Dec. 11 to object to the renewal, less than a month after two men reportedly shot each other outside Monkey's Bar & Grille at 6116 Huntley Road on Worthington's east side.
They were Worthington's first homicides in more than two decades, according to Anne Brown, a Worthington spokeswoman.
Worthington Division of Police Chief Jerry Strait said the incident in the early-morning hours of Nov. 15 was not the first trouble officers had encountered at the bar.
Strait said officers have responded to one stabbing, five assaults, three fights and two disturbances over the past two years, along with "some suspicious-person calls and some 911 hangups."
"Part of the reason we haven't had more violence, I believe, is that every night they've had a large-size crowd, we've requested that we have additional personnel sit on the lot itself," he said. "So that accounts for over 150 or so different times when we've had an officer sitting on that lot to prevent additional problems."
Strait said even without the homicides, "there's a good chance we would be at this conversation," and he and the city's law director, Tom Lindsey, recommended council members file an objection to the liquor-permit renewal.
City Council approved the decision unanimously.
"This is pretty simple," Councilman Scott Myers said. "This is not rocket science. We don't have a lot of other options."
City Council's opposition does not guarantee that the license will not be renewed.
According to Lindsey, the ordinance initiates a process that ultimately will be decided by the Ohio Department of Commerce's Division of Liquor Control.
Brown told ThisWeek shortly after the shootings that city officials planned to petition the Division of Liquor Control to not renew the bar's license.
Strait said City Council's decision would not come as a surprise to the management at Monkey's.
"We've been in and spoken with the management of the business and advised them of the concerns we've seen, the different problems we've seen," he said.
C&B Machinery Inc. is the name listed on both city documents and the liquor permit as the owner of Monkey's. State records show it is registered to Marlen Silva, according to The Columbus Dispatch, and Silva's name is on the liquor license, Strait said.
ThisWeek left a message with an employee at the bar but the call seeking comment from the owner was not returned.
For Councilman David Norstrom, the decision to oppose the permit renewal left him wondering how things could have been handled differently before things escalated to a double homicide.
"Two people died recently," he said. "It's clear that this was a bad place. The question I've got for staff is, could we have done something better?"
Strait and City Manager Matt Greeson said their respective departments did everything they could.
"We had not only reached out to the owner, but we had increased enforcement and patrol," Greeson said. "There's a good chance we would be having this conversation if the homicide had not happened."
Strait said Monkey's had hired security in the summer, which "made it better for a while" but "really had no effect."
"It got to the point where we were doing bar walks – actual walks through the bar itself," he said. "And we had personal contact with not only the management, but the owner."
Police were called at 1:27 a.m. Nov. 15 to Monkey's Bar and Grille, according to a dispatcher for the Columbus Division of Police, who assisted Worthington police on the call.
Officers from the two departments found two men – Rayland L. Sullivan, 36, of northeast Columbus and Brian K. Farris, 28, of Reynoldsburg – lying in the parking lot and patio area of the bar with gunshot wounds. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
A third man, who was not identified by police, was found a short distance away with a gunshot wound to his leg, police said.
The last time a homicide occurred in Worthington was in November 1995, Brown said. That was when Paul Thane Griffin, 64, was killed at the end of a shooting rampage by Jerry Hessler, leaving a Clintonville couple and their 5-month-old daughter dead and two others wounded in Columbus. Griffin's daughter had rejected Hessler's advances 10 years earlier.
The Columbus Dispatch reporter Beth Burger contributed to this story.