Government

Planning Commission Opposes Coconut Grove Reopening Bar

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Members of the Youngstown Planning Commission voted 5-1 Tuesday against permitting the Coconut Grove, now owned by a cousin of an assistant to President Donald Trump, to reopen as a bar.

David Manigault of Youngstown, who has operated the restaurant the last few years, had sought a waiver from the city to establish a regulated use within a 500-foot radius of two other regulated uses. The property is located at 3229 South Ave. Commission member Patricia Sveth cast the sole vote in favor of granting the waiver.

The Pastime Bar, 3321 South Ave., and a convenience store are within the 500-foot radius.

Manigault is a cousin of Youngstown native and reality television personality Omarosa Manigault, who was named earlier this year as an assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison. He is seeking a full liquor license from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and already is licensed to serve food.

The establishment lost its liquor license in 2012.

“It’s been a bar. It’s always been a bar. I don’t see what the problem is,” Manigault told the planning commission. He purchased the business a few years ago and served food from it until recently, when he closed it for renovations and to obtain a new liquor license for the site. He has operated establishments including Bill’s Place in Austintown and the Southern Tavern in Youngstown, he said.

Manigault said he planned to restrict the age for entering the establishment, which will be open for lunch and dinner, to 35 and older after 9 p.m. “Twenty-one is too wild,” he said.

Residents of the neighborhood and two neighborhood organizations objected to granting the waiver for the bar.

James Locker, secretary of the South Avenue Business Association’s board of directors and owner of Celebrity Studio, 2520 South Ave., pointed to the proliferation of bars and establishments with liquor licenses along the corridor. Since the suspension of the liquor licenses of Coconut Grove and other establishments, criminal activity along the corridor has decreased, he added.

“Our objective is to make the South Avenue corridor a safe, clean environment and inviting neighborhood. While the Coconut Grove is an existing business with historical ties to the area, it is imperative that any actions, activity or consideration must be for the betterment of the area and support the objective to enhance, grow improve the mission of SABA,” he said.

Kelly Dunleavy, representing Pastor Al Yanno of Metro Assembly of God, 2530 South Ave. read a letter by Yanno into the record. The church is a member of business association and the South Avenue Area Neighborhood Development Initiative.

In the letter, Yanno noted the church has been on South Avenue for 15 years and invested time, resources and energy into revitalizing the neighborhood. Its efforts include purchasing buildings along the corridor, among them the building next to the Coconut Grove, with the intent of using them as community centers.

“South Avenue is oversaturated with bars and alcohol establishments. Oftentimes these places have become a breeding ground for crime, vandalism and litter along our corridor,” Yanno stated.

In October 2011, a man was shot dead and a woman wounded in the bar’s parking lot, according to press reports.

A petition with 26 signatures from the neighborhood was submitted requesting denial of the waiver.

No one spoke in favor of Manigault’s request.

The matter now goes to City Council, which could accept the commission’s recommendation or vote to grant the waiver.

Pictured: The Coconut Grove, 3321 South Ave., operates food service but its liquor license was revoked.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.