Truth? In Cleveland Government? The Spy Bar Case Takes a Strangely Honest Twist

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A rare, fleeting moment of honesty interrupted a meeting of lawyers and politicians today. And though the offending truth-monger quickly back-tracked, returning the universe to its natural order, C-Notes was there to capture what historians have dubbed The Most Exciting Moment in the Annals of Cleveland Government Ever. The strange instance of sincerity occurred during a hearing at City Hall, where Council was fighting to shut down Spy Bar. The Warehouse District nightclub has long been a target of Cleveland police, fellow merchants, and Councilman Joe Cimperman. Since a young man was killed in a parking lot near the club in July, efforts have been doubled to see the club’s liquor licensed revoked. At the hearing, the state liquor-control board heard from witnesses from both sides. It was a fairly predictable affair, with plenty of “I don’t recalls,” accusations of badgering, and snoring newspaper reporters. But late in the morning, former police commander Andy Gonzalez took the stand. As the supervisor in charge of the Warehouse District, Gonzalez said he received several complaints about Spy Bar over the years. Then something strange happened: Gonzalez started to tell the truth. “There was concern about knuckleheads coming into that neighborhood,” he said. “We quickly learned that they were people of minority descent.” He said he urged the bar “to stop marketing to that kind of clientèle.” Gonzalez, now the chief of police for the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, had inadvertently awoken the elephant in the room. All hearing long, no one had even flirted with the obvious: that Warehouse District patrons and business owners complain disproportionately about Spy Bar at least in part because the bar attracts a largely black, hip-hop crowd – and that the suburbanites who keep the Warehouse District breathing aren’t terribly comfortable with large crowds of doo-ragged black men. That’s why they moved to Westlake in the first place. Of course, no one in a suit is allowed to say this, not when there are TV cameras and recorders rolling. So Gonzalez quickly reversed himself. “My concerns were never their race,” he said. But it was too late. The elephant was already stomping around the room. – Joe P. Tone

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