Police, owners disagree on bar’s future

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Owners of a local bar plagued by violence met with the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission Monday to learn its fate, which is still uncertain. While owners of Sports & Spirits have worked to reduce police calls, officers argue that based on its history, the establishment shouldn’t be able to serve alcohol again.

Last September, the Allen County Alcohol and Tobacco Commission voted unanimously not to renew Sports & Spirits’ alcohol license. It was prompted after police responded to the bar about 135 times within the last two years.

“Since i took over in narcotics in August of 2012, we’ve never actually focused on a bar because we’ve not really had those same issues. So, this is a very problem location and we’d like to close it down and be done with it,” said Captain Kevin Hunter of the Fort Wayne Police Department, Vice and Narcotics Division.

Sports & Spirits’ Co-owner Burke Baughman argued that a majority of those calls weren’t for violence or drugs and over the last six months, police admit that they’ve responded to the bar a handful of times. However, police expect this to be a temporary fix.

“It has slowed down but it hasn’t stopped,” said Captain Hunter.

Baughman attributes the decrease in violence to opening earlier for lunch, closing earlier and watching the crowd. In fact, he said his staff has turned away at least 50 customers.

“We were new to the business so we were learning too, so, we’ve learned a lot over the last few years and we’re utilizing the tools that we’ve learned,” said Baughman.

While Baughman said their peak season is in the winter, when it’s cold outside, Captain Hunter disagreed, saying the summer months are usually the busiest time for the police department and expects that the bar will be busy too.

The hearing officer is expected to have a decision within the next month. Baughman could appeal the decision, but it would go through the court system and not the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. The bar can serve alcohol in the meantime.

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