Downtown Cleveland will undoubtedly be crowded this Saturday with hundreds of thousands of St. Patrick's Day revelers expected to attend the city's 176th annual parade.
Bars and restaurants in the heart of the city will be jam-packed as well, but just how clean are the drinks that they will be serving?
Cleveland 19's investigative team recently combed through records from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and the Department of Public Safety, looking for liquor permit violations in seven downtown neighborhoods: the Warehouse District, East 4th Street, the Flats, Gateway District, Public Square, Euclid Avenue and Playhouse Square.
Of the more than 70 bars and restaurants we checked, 10 have been cited by the state since last St. Patrick's Day and still have active cases with the Ohio Investigative Unit. The OIU agents investigate suspected illegal activity in liquor permit premises.
Back in September, East End Restaurant & Bar in the Flats was issued two violations for 'insanitary conditions,' which Merriam-Webster defines as "unclean enough to endanger health."
One of the violations states agents found alcoholic beverages at East End were "not maintained in potable condition."
Nick's Sports Corner on Prospect Avenue near Quicken Loans Arena was also issued a violation for insanitary conditions. The bar received similar violations in 2015 and 2016.
Since the cases are still active and open, Cleveland 19 was unable to obtain a copy of the case report, which would outline exactly what agents witnessed prompting them to issue the violations.
Of the 10 downtown bars cited by OIU since last St. Patrick's Day, eight are, or were, located in the Warehouse District.
Barley House, Bar Louie, Tequila Ranch, The Nauti Mermaid, Dive Bar, Taza, Anatomy and Spirits each received violations in 2017 for 'insanitary conditions - alcoholic beverages not maintained in potable condition.'
Spirits and Anatomy, both of which recently closed, as well as Bar Louie, The Nauti Mermaid, Taza also received violations because agents found fixtures, equipment, tables, counters, coolers/refrigerators or utensils were not clean or sanitary.
OIU violation notice issued to Bar Louie on Nov. 30, 2017 (Source: Ohio Department of Public Safety)
We reached out to each of the businesses to ask about their violations but so far have only received responses from a few.
Bar Louie, located on West 6th Street, also received a violation from OIU for "hindering or obstructing inspection."
The general manager said agents claimed there were flies in a bottle of Glenlivet Scotch whisky. When he disputed the violation, he says the state agents cited him for obstruction.
In addition to the two insanitary conditions violations, Spirits was hit with a citation last St. Patrick's Day for selling alcohol to a patron under age 21.
A Spirits bartender was charged with serving alcohol to Megan Keefe, who was only 20 years old at the time. Keefe suffered permanent head injuries after falling from a second floor balcony at the bar.
The bartender, Carisa Buehner, recently pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday.
We interviewed one Warehouse District bar owner, who asked us not to use his name. He believes neighborhood establishments are being unfairly targeted, saying the violations were minor and that investigators were "nitpicking."
One of the managers at Taza told us their two violations were "minor" and that inspectors had found some condensation in a beer cooler.
At Barley House, manager David Fassbender didn't agree, but said all bar operators need to be on their best behavior this St. Patrick's Day.
"Have fun. It's a great holiday, you know, come out with your friends, but be extra cautious," said Fassbender. "Last year, that was a huge tragedy and we hope to learn from that and continue to move on."
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