Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 5, 2013

Bar owners blame problem on police

KPD denies asking club to break the law.

The Kokomo Police Department is crying foul on a couple of Kokomo bar owners after the bar owners alleged police told them to intentionally break the state’s alcohol laws.

The Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission voted this week to accept a settlement with the owners of The Social Experience, 3040 S. Lafountain St. The owners, Dustin Ogle and Brett Morrow, agreed to pay a $500 fine for a September 2012 incident in which three 16-year-old girls were found drinking inside the club.

The settlement also dismissed a separate excise violation, filed after police said two teenage males were inside the bar in December.

According to the settlement, the bar owners told ATC prosecutor Jennifer Drewry that police specifically told the bar owners to allow the teenage boys to go inside the bar.

“[The bar owners were] told that in order to permanently remove these individuals for trespass, that they had to be found inside the premises. [The owners were] instructed to allow the individuals inside so they could be arrested for trespass,” the settlement reads.

Kokomo Police Department spokesman Maj. Brian Seldon said the allegation by the bar owners “is just not true.”

“We don’t tell bar owners to allow underage drinkers inside the bar. Why would we tell bar owners to break the law? Why would we do that?” Seldon said.

Seldon said the fact the teenagers were in the club parking lot was enough to put the teens on a trespass list. They didn’t need to be inside the business, he added.

“In my 25 years in law enforcement, I’ve never heard anything like that,” Seldon said.

Drewry indicated part of the reason for the settlement was because the owners have “a policy of detaining all underaged persons found inside the premises and having them arrested,” and said the owners wanted to send a statement on underage drinking.

“The Commission does not want to discourage permittees throughout Indiana from calling law enforcement to report underaged persons illegally on the premises and to have them removed,” the settlement states.

The ATC’s hearing officer on the case recommended against the settlement, Indiana Excise Police spokesman Cpl. Travis Thickstun said. The commission’s board voted in favor of the settlement anyway.

None of the police affidavits from the night of the December arrests of the two teenagers mentions anything about directing the bar owners to allow the teenagers inside the club.

Officers said they responded to a call from the club Dec. 2. Bar staff wanted help in getting rid of at least one individual who was on a trespass list. When police arrived, they found three individuals in the bar’s parking lot in various states of intoxication. The affidavits state all three — two teenagers and a 22-year-old — were arrested in the parking lot and taken either to the Howard County Jail or the Kinsey Youth Center.

None of the three was arrested for trespass, although all three were arrested for minor in a tavern and other charges. All three said they gained access to the club using fake identification.

Drewry and the attorney representing Ogle and Morrow, Mark Webb, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Kokomo Tribune eEdition, or our print edition

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