BEVERLY-Despite ongoing concern about possible fights and criminal activity at the Valley Inn bar in Beverly, the village's mayor has said he has no plans for now to keep pursuing the closure of the business.
That decision comes just a couple weeks after an attempt to revoke the bar's liquor license failed 5-1 at a village council meeting. Kenyon said previously that village officials were considering revoking the bar's license or limiting the hours of operation, on the advice of village Solicitor Tom Webster.
Kenyon said because many calls have come into the Beverly police station in the last year, he began questioning the safety of everyone at the 719 Zanesville St. business, from patrons to responding officers.
AMANDA NICHOLSON The Marietta Times
Bartender Joann Clark serves drinks at the Valley Inn last week. The Valley Inn has been a hot topic at the last two Beverly Council meetings. At the Dec. 12 meeting, a motion to revoke the liquor permit for the business was defeated 5 to 1
"In 2012 (Beverly Police) Chief (Mark) Sams brought to my attention the number of calls and types of calls (the Valley Inn) was having," Kenyon said. "The chief and I sat down with John Young (owner of the Valley Inn) and discussed the situation."
Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 12 calls into the Beverly Police Department.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office has received 15 calls.
2012: Beverly Police Department Chief Mark Sams contacted Beverly Mayor Rex Kenyon about the number and types of calls received about the Valley Inn; Sams and Kenyon sat down with John Young, owner of the Valley Inn and discussed options for safety of patrons and officers.
Aug. 11, 2013: The body of a Malta man involved in a fight outside the Valley Inn is found in the water nearby. Foul play is later ruled out in the death.
November 2013: At the monthly Beverly Council meeting, concern was shared about the Valley Inn. A discussion was held about Emergency Medical Squad personnel being threatened and a photo displayed of a poker run showing "possible gang activity." A number of 911 calls were collected, showing a total of 15 into the Washington County Sheriff's Office, ranging from fighting, assault, theft and an August 2013 death.
Dec. 12: A public discussion on the Valley Inn was held at the monthly council meeting, a vote was taken to revoke the liquor license of the Valley Inn; the motion failed 5 to 1.
The nature of the calls includes disorderly conduct, fighting, assault and theft.
The most serious of the cases was a call in August about the body of John L. Duncan, 39, of Malta, being found in the canal behind the Valley Inn.
Duncan had been involved in a fight the night before in the parking lot of the Valley Inn, captured by surveillance cameras. Law enforcement later said no foul play was suspected in the death.
Kenyon said that he mentioned increased security, surveillance cameras and cooperative staff with Young.
"I was cautiously hopeful he would address the issues," he said. "Maybe either get a bouncer or someone who would enforce the rules of fighting and disorderly conduct. Also not serving additional liquor (to customers who have had too much to drink)."
Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said he shares some of Kenyon's concerns, particularly about the safety of officers.
The Beverly Police Department has one officer available to respond to 911 calls. Mincks said usually the department will call for backup from the Washington County Sheriff's Office, or the sheriff's office will respond automatically.
He said the number of calls involving the Valley Inn seems high.
"In comparison to other establishments of a similar size and location, it seems to be a larger number of calls," Mincks said.
He added that the number of problems associated with fights, calls of people leaving very intoxicated and the incident of a death are cause for concern.
"I would be concerned about sending my officers down there without backup," Mincks said.
During the Dec. 12 Beverly Council meeting, tensions ran high when the subject of revoking the Valley Inn liquor permits came to the floor.
In a heated discussion, Young defended his bar to the council, saying that the bar was his livelihood.
Jarrod Kasun, owner of B&W Pharmacy, supported Young's business and defended it to the council.
While Young declined to comment further on the situation, he has many voices in the community saying they support the bar.
Jan King, 54, of Beverly, is a frequent patron of the Valley Inn.
"I've been coming here all my life," she said. "I'm a frequent customer. (Young) treats us good and they serve good food in here."
King added that the regular crowd isn't one to cause a ruckus.
"We work and then come here to goof off," she said. "They're all good boys in here, all good workers...You know everybody. It's people I grew up with; they never cause any trouble. I wouldn't be afraid to bring anybody in here."
King admitted that every once in a while, trouble can be stirred up.
"A bar's a bar," she said. "You'll get one (person) that's going to cause trouble. We've all been in that driver's seat."
Frank Landolfi, 50, and Jennifer Bailey, 40, are residents of New York. At least three times a year they come from the Brooklyn area to visit with friends in Beverly and make a stop at the Valley Inn, as they did earlier this month.
"We like to come here and hang out," Landolfi said. "There's good people here; everybody's nice."
Landolfi said the Valley Inn offers good interactions between community members, and he said he would have felt major disappointment if the business would have its doors closed.
"I've never seen a problem with this bar," he said. "If they want to see some problems in bars, they should go to New York and see some problems in bars."
Another resident, Donald Kitts, Jr., 39, said the Valley Inn isn't just a bar.
"We lost Quimby's a few years ago, and I'm just glad (the Valley Inn) is still open," Kitts said. "Dad comes down here to get lunch once in a while...Everybody calls it 'the office.' It's a meeting place."
Beverly resident Mike Smith, 62, said a governing body, whether it's federal or local, should stay out of businesses of every type.
"If (the business) isn't making money, it won't be there; it'll close down," Smith said. "Business will take care of business."
Regardless, Kenyon said it's his duty to see to the community's needs.
"As mayor, it's my responsibility to provide a safe environment for the community," he said. "There is an expectation of going to (an establishment) and not getting beat up. I hope John has been put on notice that we're watching his conduct."