Neighbors share concerns about El Tropical
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, September 2007) Neighbors of El Tropical on W. 44th and Storer Avenue have come forth offering letters of support to Rowena Ventura in her efforts to prompt city officials and neighborhood organizations to address problems at the bar. Letters delivered to her house, across Storer Avenue from the bar, indicate support for efforts and fear of the violence stemming from the bar.
A ten-year-old Storer Avenue resident says, “I have to leave my house when this bar is open, cause it’s always shooting.” The ten-year-old goes on to say, “It is not fair we have to move. I like my friends and my school.”
A neighborhood grandmother says, “I can’t even sit at the bus stop for the 81 bus without fearing that I will get shot or my grandchildren will get hurt getting on and off the bus.”
Another neighbor says, “That bar is very dangerous and rowdy. I’m very scared and afraid to walk past it.” The neighbor concludes her letter saying, “I’m praying that something be done about this matter as soon as possible.”
Ventura says residents have literally been waiting for years for something to be done about the bar. She produced videotapes dating back to 1999 that show some of the problems that have persisted over time at the bar.
Ventura produced minutes from a September 2004 neighborhood meeting that show problems concerning the bar that were brought up then still continue today. The September 2004 minutes show neighbors complained of recent shootings, loud music, people throwing bottles and drug paraphernalia, and prostitutes and drugs in the neighborhood. At the 2004 meeting a resident reported drug activity on Friday and Saturday nights and being threatened and told to “go in their house or get shot”.
Problems from the bar, open from Thursday through Saturday, are particularly bad on Friday and Saturday nights, says Ventura.
A visit to Storer and W. 44th on the night of Friday August 17th and in the early a.m. hours of August 18th reveal problems similar to those shown in the video tapes. These problems included the following: crowds hanging outside the bar, loud music coming from the bar, people shouting and making gestures at cars passing the bar, cars pulling up in front of the bar and blocking traffic while waiting to pick up patrons, and a large, noisy crowd emerging from the bar between 2 and 2:30 a.m.
The problem of cars stopping in front of the bar to pick someone up creates more noise and a hazard, as cars traveling east on Storer Avenue must go into the westbound lane in order to pass the stopped cars. While doing so, many of them beep their horns to alert the car that they are passing, adding to the already noisy scene on the corner of W. 44th and Storer. Often this beeping is occurring on a constant basis in the early a.m. hours as many residents are trying to sleep.
On the night of August 17-18, Cleveland Police officers targeted cars parked illegally in the neighborhood around El Tropical. Tickets were observed on about 20 cars. A number of the cars were parked in two vacant lots on Storer Avenue, while others cars were ticketed for parking too close to street corners. Patrons of the bar filled the parking lot and most of the parking places on surrounding streets – many walking a block or more to get to the bar.
The recent smoking ban has compounded the problems at the bar. More patrons of the bar are now outside for longer periods of time. People are constantly sitting out on a picnic table in the parking lot.
A recent attempt to get Ventura to retract statements made about El Tropical came in the form of a letter from an attorney representing El Tropical. Ventura says she received a letter dated August 17th 2007, from Attorney Edward S. Molmar, threatening to sue her for libel and slander if she doesn’t retract a statement made in a Plain Press article that says, “Problems at the bar include drugs, prostitution and shootings.” Ventura says she sticks by her statements. Neighbors’ statements at public meetings indicate that others share her perspective of what is happening in and around the bar.
At a recent Ward 14 Neighborhood Forum, Ward 14 Councilman Joe Santiago expressed his concerns about the bar and promised to take action. The July 18th Cleveland City Record indicates that Cleveland City Council passed a resolution by Ward 14 Councilman Joe Santiago objecting to the liquor license of El Tropical at 3382 W. 44th Street. The D5 liquor permit, permit number 1639762, is listed as owned by Heriberto Colon. In the resolution Councilman Santiago requests a hearing on the liquor permit renewal of the establishment be held in Cleveland. Liquor permits in Ohio are up for renewal on October 1st of each year.
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