COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – An attorney for a local bar hit with penalties over criminal activity doesn’t agree with the city’s account of what has gone on in and around the business.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced earlier in August that the Spotlight 2 Lounge would see restrictions including a complete shutdown over the weekend of the 27th, as well as being required to close at 1 a.m. on any other night. The penalties are thanks to a court order filed in a lawsuit between the city and the lounge. It won’t see further action until Nov. 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 of 2021. But Spotlight’s attorney, James J. Andrioff, said not everything Klein alleged in his lawsuit is true.
“Allegations of shots fired in the street somehow always get associated with the nearest bar,” Andrioff said. “When the calls come in, the caller often uses the nearest landmark sign to describe where they are and it automatically gets listed as a call to that location.”
The attorney called out two specific crime dates that Klein referenced: May 8 and June 4. The first saw a fight that led to a shot fired, and the second was a report of multiple shots fired that hit a wall of the Spotlight 2 Lounge. Andrioff said that a key detail was the time these happened.
“The May 8 allegation was … of a large group of men fighting outside the premises at 2:39 [a.m.],” Andrioff said. “The bar was closed by then and all people off the lot by 2:30. Had nothing to do with the business. The June 4 incident was something that happened outside the bar at 3:26 a.m., an hour after the bar was closed and the parking lot emptied.”
According to a Columbus police report, bouncers at the bar on June 4 said they kicked out “multiple male subjects from the bar earlier and believed it was them who shot up the bar.” The bouncers are listed in the report as witnesses.
A Columbus police report for the May 8 incident lines up with Andrioff’s description of what happened.
There was another incident just days before — 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 report that the call came in at approximately 1 a.m. when the club was still open.
Klein also said that the Spotlight 2 Lounge had been delinquent on $7,274.47 in Franklin County real estate taxes for over a year. Andrioff showed NBC4 documents that indicated his client had paid them off. It wasn’t clear when Spotlight handled the bill, as the documents did indicate they were paid late with a $976.23 penalty fee. Andrioff also shared a document showing Spotlight paid off $1,160.43 in Ohio sales and use tax a week before Klein said they had skipped paying taxes.
The attorney for Spotlight 2 Lounge also addressed an accusation of illegal adult entertainment performances at the bar, which Klein listed in the complaint for his lawsuit. The attorney said the accusation stemmed from social media posts advertising a “strip-a-thon.”
“The city is notorious for making these wild accusations in these nuisance complaints, but at the end of the day that’s all they are, allegations,” Andrioff said. “No such strip events were occurring and no officers ever witnessed or wrote a report about any such events. There is no actual evidence that any of this occurred or it would be in a report and there would be actual witnesses.”
Andrioff also said that the owner of Spotlight tried to take measures to increase safety at the lounge. They spent the majority of 2021 in talks with the Columbus Division of Police to have special duty officers work nights at the lounge and even agreed to pay them $54 per hour. The attorney said Spotlight wanted officers over private security “based on their training and connections for response time.” However, emails between Spotlight’s owner and CPD showed that the discussion fell apart months later.
“No officers have been interested in working so far,” said CPD Management Analyst Kevin White in a November 2021 email.
NBC4 reached out Tuesday morning to the city attorney’s office, asking about Andrioff’s counterpoints and shared documents. However, the city attorney has yet to respond.