MOUNT VERNON — A public hearing was held Thursday regarding a liquor permit application filed by Mafi LLC. Mafi’s owners, Joel Mazza and Richard Fisher III, have applied for a permit to serve beer, wine and spirits at a location they rent at 812 Coshocton Ave. in the former Medical Arts Building.
The hearing officer, James Bally of the liquor control division, presided over the proceedings via a video hook up with his office in Columbus.
Mount Vernon City Law Director Bill Smith called five people to testify as to why they object to the issuance of a liquor permit at that location.
City Councilman Mike Hillier said the owner of the building, Robert Ronk, has stated that he [Ronk] doesn’t want a liquor license in that building. Hillier also said the other businesses in the building are Sips Coffee House, dentist offices and similar businesses. He was not aware of any previous liquor permits held by tenants of that property.
City Councilman Jay Maners also objected. He said the 812 Coshocton Ave. site is a family business area.
“This [bar] wouldn’t fit in with that,” he said. “Several citizens have voiced their concerns to me about that.”
John Fair, also on City Council, shared Maners’ concern about the location. He objected to its proximity to a church, the First Church of the Nazarene. Fair said he also spoke with Ronk, and confirmed Hillier’s statement that Ronk said, “the establishment of a bar would not be part of the deal.”
Council president John Booth said he did not believe the location in the building would be big enough for what Mafi LLC wants to do with the space — “sit down drinking, tables and chairs and things like that.” He added that he could remember only one previous time in 37 years that City Council objected to a liquor permit.
Booth also relayed to Bally councilwoman Nancy Vail’s objections to the liquor permit.
First Church of the Nazarene pastor Russell Gumm said his greatest concern is for the safety of the students. He said the church sponsors a lot of youth activities, and many of them are late at night. He feels a bar in the vicinity would not be appropriate or safe. [One of the permits requested would allow the sale of alcohol until 2:30 in the morning.]
Representing applicants Mazza and Fisher, Robin Jones told Bally that Coshocton Avenue is a state route [U.S. 36] in a commercial area with other locations that do have liquor licenses. She mentioned the old Bullock’s drive-through/carryout, which was right across the street from 812 Coshocton Ave.
She said the church in question is “across the street and down a ways,” and stated that although the law requires a church within 500 feet of a potential liquor-serving location to be notified of a liquor application, the law does not say there cannot be a permit within 500 feet of a church.
Speaking of Ronk’s objections, Jones read from the lease document signed by Ronk. One paragraph does include something about “maintaining the validity of an existing liquor license.”
In response to questions from Jones, Mazza said the current application is not the same as the one previously held by Mazza’s Restaurant on West High Street. He said the bar would be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week, and at different hours on the weekend.
In closing, Smith iterated that City Council opposes the issuance of the license because of the location and character of other businesses in the immediate area.
“A bar wouldn’t look right, it would stand out,” Smith said. He also questioned whether the site would meet all of the liquor department’s requirements.
Jones closed by saying simply, “We believe we have addressed all the concerns.”
Bally said he will review the hearing data, the application and other materials and make a recommendation to Bruce Stevenson, superintendent, division of liquor control. Stevenson will then render a decision, said Bally. No specific timeline was mentioned.