Councilman Santiago’s support of nightclubs draws concern
by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, July 2006) Concerns of residents in Ward 14 brought to the attention of the Plain Press would indicate new Councilman Joe Santiago has alienated a number of residents and business owners in the early going. A particular sore point concerns Santiago’s withdrawal of several objections to liquor permit renewals or liquor license transfers made in 2005 by Council predecessor Nelson Cintron, Jr. at the request of neighborhood residents and businesses. Block club members and businesses contend that Santiago made these withdrawals without listening to their concerns.

Some of the withdrawals of objections to liquor licenses concern nightclubs like the Starkweather Southside Tavern on Scranton & Starkweather, the Latin Touch at 5004 Storer Avenue and Envy Lounge on W. 25th and Chatham. Santiago has also lent his support to La Copa, a new nightclub proposed for the front section of the Dollar Store at 2704 Clark Avenue.

The Starkweather, closed for the last several months for renovations, has proved a nuisance to neighborhood residents concerned about noise and graffiti from the nightclub’s patrons. The Envy Lounge was the site of a recent fight that spilled out into its parking lot and resulted in the death of one of its patrons. La Copa has drawn opposition from neighborhood businesses in the Clark and W. 25th street commercial strip, as well as neighborhood residents and a church in the residential  area on Walton.

La Copa’s application for a variance to allow it to change from a bar/tavern to a nightclub with live entertainment has particularly drawn the ire of area businesses and residents. One of Santiago’s first actions after taking office in January of 2006 was to write a letter of support for the transfer of a liquor license to Gennie Rodriguez for what was then being billed a Sports Bar. Residents contend that Rodriguez is a front for her male companion, Raed W. Sadik. Sadik was listed as co-owner on a flier at a July 2005 community meeting to introduce the idea of creating a nightclub in the front section of the Family Dollar Store at 2704 Clark Avenue. Sadik has a troubled past. Records from the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court show that from 2001 to 2004 charges against Sadik included felonious assault, criminal simulation, trafficking in drugs within a school zone and attempted theft and insurance fraud. The zoning variance hearing for La Copa hearing is scheduled for Monday June 26th.

Residents speculate that Santiago’s rocky start to his term in council seems to stem from blind support of any business and an unwillingness to acknowledge the legitimate role of government in regulating businesses. Residents raising concerns to the Plain Press say they feel that zoning rules prohibiting nightclubs from locating within 500 feet of residential neighborhoods should be enforced. They feel that their local government should enforce those rules, and exceptions should be rare and made only with the consent of the all the parties that could be negatively affected by allowing a variance.


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