Lawsuit: City wants bar at The Banks declared nuisance, shut down for a year

Lawsuit: City wants bar at The Banks declared nuisance, shut down for a year
Galla Park restaurant at The Banks (Source: Kareem Elgazzar/Cincinnati Enquirer)

CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - The City of Cincinnati is asking a judge to declare Galla Park, a bar at The Banks, a nuisance and “padlock” it shut for one year, according to our media partners at the Enquirer.

The lawsuit, filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Tuesday, alleges underage drinking, a patron dragged outside the bar and left unconscious and numerous bar fights, including one so large the Joe Nuxhall Way had to be shut down to break it up.

The suit names PMG Cincinnati Inc, the company name Galla Park operates under, Michael Mercer, Galla Park’s manager and NIC Riverbanks Retail One, which owns the property.

“The Galla Park defendants operate without regard to liquor law and are a persistent source of drunken disorder in the heart of downtown Cincinnati,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit was filed late Tuesday.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, chairman of Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee, praised city officials for being proactive.

“We have had too many incidents where people have lost their lives,” Smitherman said. “We’re called on the carpet when not as aggressive about enforcement. This to me is a proactive stance by the city. As we come out of COVID-19 and people come back to their lives, the city will demand a standard of how people will conduct themselves.”

Galla Park opened in October of 2018 as a restaurant and bar at the corner of Third Street and Joe Nuxhall Way, a few steps from the entrance to the Great American Ball Park. The lawsuit comes as The Banks works to draw customers with an outdoor drinking district, which started last month and has drawn large crowds.

Galla Park’s website describes itself as redefining “dining and entertainment” at The Banks.

Problems detailed in the lawsuit date to June 2019, with an employee arrested for sale of alcohol to a minor. The lawsuit then goes on to detail large fights, the repeated need for police intervention and an instance in which a manager was assaulted.

Messages left at Galla Park for Mercer and another at NIC Riverbanks’ Cincinnati office were not returned Wednesday evening. A second call to Galla Park Bar resulted in a hangup.

Among the issues recounted in the lawsuit, on Nov. 29, several fights erupted in a large disorderly crowd of Galla Park patrons which resulted in Cincinnati police closing Joe Nuxhall Way in order to disperse the “disorderly” crowd. And on Jan. 17, 2021, Cincinnati police were called because a patron of Galla Park had a gun, the lawsuit says.

A March 14 incident is recounted. The lawsuit says Cincinnati Police were contacted for a person down in front of Galla Park, where responding officers found a “highly intoxicated and vomiting person, who was bleeding from the mouth.”

A Galla Park employee told police the person had become unconscious inside Galla Park and that he placed the “vomiting, bleeding, and intoxicated individual” on the sidewalk at the direction of the manager. The manager denied the allegation, according to the lawsuit, and refused to talk to Cincinnati Police.

City officials from the police and law department, in a Zoom call on March 16, warned Mercer that “further liquor violations or drunken disorder at Galla Park would be met with City enforcement action, including the possibility of seeking closure of Galla Park via a nuisance lawsuit.”

Problems persisted, the lawsuit alleges. On March 18, a person was arrested after being kicked out of the bar and on March 21 an employee was caught selling alcohol to a minor, the lawsuit said.

A statement from the city:

“The City filed this lawsuit in response to Galla Park’s persistent and flagrant violation of liquor laws, including several occasions where patrons were overserved that resulted in unsafe situations for the patrons and other members of the public... The City has repeatedly sought to work with the owners, but they refuse to address the seriousness of these violations or have meaningful engagement about correcting the situation.”

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