Pawpurr's Bar

Dozens of bar patrons, many without masks, waiting for entry at Pawpurrs the night it was cited. Photo by Ben Peters.

The Ohio Liquor Control Commission ruled last week that Pawpurr’s Bar was found in violation of public health orders after it was cited in August by a state agency for failing to enforce social distancing and masking requirements.

The holder of the bar’s liquor license entered into a denial of its charge of disorderly activity at a hearing in front of the commission last week. The commission, however, found the permit holder in violation of the law and issued a 20-day suspension beginning at 12 p.m. on Nov. 6, but gave the option of paying a $2,000 fine in lieu of serving the suspension, according to a release from the commission.

It’s not clear which option the permit holder agreed to, nor was it made clear in the release which permit holder appeared before the commission. According to the Ohio Department of Commerce, Pawpurr’s CEO Steven R. Sines and Vice President Steve Van Fleet are both permit holders who have equal shares in the company.

The NEWS was unable to make contact with either Sines or Van Fleet at time of publication.

Pawpurr’s was cited in late August on the Friday of Ohio University’s “welcome weekend” after the Athens Police Department received a complaint of a large crowd at the bar.

State agents with the Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU), which investigates suspected illegal activity in bars, were subsequently summoned after receiving complaints of “blatant violations” to public health orders. They entered Pawpurr’s and witnessed more than 40 patrons standing at the bar either consuming alcohol or waiting to purchase drinks.

“The groups standing at the bar were three patrons deep, shoulder to shoulder with no social distancing, and not wearing masks,” according to a news release issued at the time.

Authorities also saw patrons walking around freely while drinking and intermixing with other group’s tables and at the bar. Bars are required under a state order to maintain at least six feet of distance between parties while they wait to be seated and while seated.

OIU agents explained to employees the violations and the corrective action needed to prevent future citations.

Several Uptown bars have been cited by the state in recent months for flouting public health orders amid the pandemic.

The Pigskin Bar and Grille was cited in September for after hours consumption after OIU agents visited and saw through the front windows patrons drinking beers and bartenders still serving alcohol. Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order in July prohibiting bars from serving alcohol after 10 p.m. in an effort to slow spread of the coronavirus.

Stephen’s On Court, The Crystal and The CI also all received administrative citations in August for violating public health requirements as the result of an investigation conducted by OIU into a fatal crash that occurred early in the morning on the Fourth of July.

Each of these cases will go before the commission for potential penalties, including fines and/or the suspension or revocation of liquor permits.

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