Ohio bar hits back at city attorney’s felony charges

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — An attorney for a local bar slapped with criminal activity penalties disagrees with the city’s account of what happened in and around the business.

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced earlier in August that the Spotlight 2 show would see restrictions, including a complete closure on the weekend of the 27th, as well as being required to close at 1 a.m. morning every other night. The penalties are through a court order filed in a lawsuit between the city and the salon. He won’t see any more action until November 14.

The city has painted Spotlight 2 Lounge as a place surrounded by drugs, fights and shootings, with Klein saying Columbus police have been called to the bar 50 times since July 2021. But Spotlight’s attorney, James J. Andrioff, didn’t say it all. Klein alleged in his lawsuit is true.

“Allegations of shots fired in the street are always associated with the nearest bar,” Andrioff said. “When calls come in, the caller often uses the nearest landmark sign to describe where they are and it is automatically listed as a call to that location.”

The attorney called out two specific crime dates that Klein referred to: May 8 and June 4. The first saw a fight that led to a gunshot, and the second was a report of multiple gunshots that hit a wall in the Spotlight 2 Lounge. Andrioff said a key detail was when it happened.

“The May 8 allegation was… of a large group of men fighting outside the premises at 2:39 a.m. [a.m.]”, Andrioff said. “The bar was closed at the time and all people left the field at 2:30 p.m. Nothing to do with the company. The June 4 incident happened outside the bar at 3:26 a.m., one hour after the bar closed and the parking lot was emptied.

According to a Columbus police report, bouncers at the bar on June 4 said they kicked “several male subjects from the bar earlier and believed they were the ones who fired into the bar.” The bouncers are listed in the report as witnesses.

A Columbus police report for the May 8 incident matches Andrioff’s description of what happened.

There was another incident a few days before – on May 4 – in which a woman allegedly grabbed a security guard’s gun and fired a shot during an argument with a man at the club. According to a police report, the woman was hitting the man until the man hit her back, at which point she grabbed the gun. Police say the call came in around 1 a.m. while the club was still open.

Klein also said the Spotlight 2 lounge had been overdue on $7,274.47 in Franklin County property taxes for more than a year. Andrioff showed NBC4 documents showing his client paid for them. It was unclear when Spotlight processed the bill, as the paperwork indicated they were paid late with a penalty of $976.23. Andrioff also shared a document showing Spotlight paid $1,160.43 in sales and use taxes in Ohio a week before Klein said they failed to pay taxes.

Spotlight 2 Lounge’s attorney also filed an accusation of illegal adult entertainment shows at the bar, which Klein listed in the complaint for his trial. The attorney said the charge stemmed from social media posts advertising a “strip-a-thon.”

“The city is notorious for making these savage accusations in these nuisance complaints, but at the end of the day, these are just allegations,” Andrioff said. “No such event has occurred and no officer has ever witnessed or written up a report of such occurrences. There is no real proof that any of this happened or it would be in a report and there would be real witnesses.

Andrioff also said the owner of Spotlight tried to take steps to increase security in the salon. They spent the majority of 2021 in talks with the Columbus Police Division to have special duty officers work nights in the lounge and even agreed to pay them $54 an hour. The attorney said Spotlight wanted private security guards “based on their training and connections for response time.” However, emails between the Spotlight owner and CPD showed the discussion fell apart months later.

“No officers have been interested in working so far,” CPD management analyst Kevin White said in a November 2021 email.

NBC4 reached out to the city attorney’s office on Tuesday morning, asking about Andrioff’s counterpoints and shared documents. However, the city attorney has yet to respond.

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