Club Owner Sees License Loss as Racial Bias

Jennifer Edwards, Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 4

WEST CHESTER TWP.—The owner of one Greater Cincinnati’s largest Hispanic nightclubs is fighting to keep his liquor license and stay open despite problems with crime, large crowds, fights and littering since he opened it nearly three years ago.

Efrain Leal is one of two owners of Tequila’s Nite Club off Ohio 747 at Crescentville Road in the Tri-County Center. He was recently notified that state liquor officials would not renew the bar’s liquor license later this month after the township objected.

State liquor officials agreed with West Chester police and township officials in a five-page report detailing problems that culminated in large, volatile fights in the parking lot, hundreds of police calls and several arrests since the club opened in November 2002.

But the club’s operator alleges the township and its police department targeted his business because it caters to Hispanics. While his appeal to state liquor license officials is pending, he is permitted to keep operating and serving alcohol.

“This is just about race,” said Leal. “That’s all this is. It wasn’t fair.

“It was pretty much a set-up,” added Leal, 42, who has a wife and three children and has lived in West Chester since 1991.

Police and township officials deny Leal’s allegations of racial targeting.

At times, police say they feared for their safety during parking lot melees when the crowds surrounded them, including some patrons who were armed with bottles and jumper cables.

In one case, a patron hit a police officer in the head and in a second incident a patron was severely beaten by a bouncer who later was convicted of assault, police said.

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Several neighboring businesses, including operators of a worship center, dance studio and day care complained about urine, vomit, used condoms, liquor bottles and beer cans in the parking lot.

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