Columbus, OH

Midway on High at risk of losing liquor license

The Lantern
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A summer court hearing can decide whether the off-campus bar Midway will retain its liquor license. Credit: Christian Harsa | Managing Editor for Digital Content

High Street may have a very different look next fall, as the bar Midway on High — a favorite for Ohio State students — is at risk of losing its liquor license.

A court hearing this summer will determine if Midway loses its liquor license, which permits the bar to sell alcoholic beverages, following a series of violations over the last few years. Officials from the city of Columbus and city attorney Zach Klein are overlooking the investigation, and the Columbus Division of Police has provided information about the incidents.

Columbus Police cited 34 official police reports against Midway occurring between January 2020 and November 2021. These involved robbery, liquor law offenses, assaults, public intoxication, noise violations, theft, disorderly conduct and more, according to a letter from Commander Dennis Jeffrey to the Columbus City Council regarding the incidents.

“My area of responsibility involved Midway, I was the overall supervisor for all the officers that had to address the numerous complaints,” Jeffrey said. “I believe the bar wasn’t allowed to have outdoor speakers after 11 p.m., and they violated that multiple times.”

Jefferey oversaw Zone 4 for the Columbus Police, which includes Midway, from May 2020 until March 2022. He said the issues he’s found involved noise and music complaints, as well as overcrowding and altercations stemming from the bar, possibly endangering those inside.

Christine Bunker, marketing consultant for Midway, said the bar is associated with crimes happening on High Street that it isn’t involved in, and several of the issues addressed in a November hearing, which included Jeffrey’s findings, were not accurate.

“It does look like they’re trying to paint us as a hub of criminal activity with incidents that have happened around Midway,” Bunker said. “That doesn’t mean that it’s from Midway or patrons of Midway, but because it’s around Midway, we’re being associated with it.”

Bunker said in an email the city of Columbus has motioned for a finding of contempt, or disobedience to a court of law, for Midway in four occasions — May 2019, December 2020, April 2021 and October 2021 — with the judgment being decided this summer. The hearing, where both parties would exchange evidence, was scheduled for May 12, but it was delayed, and a future date is not yet decided.

Ali Alshahal, Midway’s owner, said the court hearing is important for his bar, as it will most likely close permanently if their liquor license is revoked.

Alshahal and Bunker said the allegations discussed in the hearing and letter regarding stolen personal items and noise complaints did not involve the bar in any way. A few of the reports did involve the bar, but not its employees.

Midway’s original violation involved a noise complaint stemming from an incident in 2018, but the primary argument brought up at the November hearing included its other charges, Alshahal said.

Midway management had Thornton Acoustics & Vibrations — an audio-engineering consulting firm — perform study to evaluate if Midway’s outdoor music was responsible for the noise complaints made by Clintonville residents, according to a copy of the study obtained by the Lantern. The study used the bar’s sound system to play a controlled signal to test its volume in the surrounding community.

The study’s results concluded Midway’s music could not have been responsibile for the noise or music reported in the Clintonville complaints because the sounds wouldn’t have reached that far of a distance. Another coverage study done by sound company Dream Boy Audio confirmed these findings, according to a copy of their company’s study.

Alshahal said he feels Midway is being unfairly targeted by Klein. He said the bar is part of the university community, as it supports several student groups — including Ski Club, The Bucket List Club, Operation Smile, Block O and several fraternities and sororities.

“As a company, it is one of our major goals to constantly be giving back to the community, and it’s why we’re passionate about Midway,” Alshahal said. “It’s why students pick Midway over others and it’s part of the fabric of the OSU experience.”

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