State liquor agents fielded multiple complaints about the Loren Naji Gallery in Ohio City before a raid on Friday

Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Mon, 05/05/2014 - 14:37.
It took more than a single complaint from one person to trigger a raid Friday on the Loren Naji gallery in Ohio City on Friday, where state agents confiscated beer and wine. 

The Cleveland office of the Ohio Dept. of Public Safety received multiple complaints over several months about loud noise at the gallery, said Greg Croft, agent in charge of the investigative unit, in an interview Monday.

The raid has spurred questions about the legality of serving alcohol at art openings –a widespread and generally genteel practice in Cleveland and other cities, which evokes images of wine served in plastic cups alongside trays of cubed cheese.

loren naji.JPGView full sizeArtist and gallery owner Loren Naji at his gallery on Saturday, May 3. Courtesy Loren Naji

 Naji said on Saturday that plainclothed state agents confiscated about $600 worth of beer, $100 worth of wine, plus a can full of $53 worth of tips collected money for the band Yosemight.

Croft said he couldn’t discuss the evidence his agents collected because the case is under investigation, but he said his office is not planning a crackdown on Cleveland art galleries.

“I’m not going to go out and start looking at every art gallery,” he said.

In Naji’s case, Croft said, he was required to investigate once complaints had been received.

“Until there’s a law change, we have to act or else we’d be in violation ourselves,” he said.

Croft said that Naji has been charged with “keeper of a place,” an unclassified misdemeanor under state law that carries fines up to $500. He has also been charged with illegal sale of alcohol, a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months of jail and fines up to $1,000.

Giving away drinks for free is considered a sale under state law, Croft said.

Naji, when contacted Monday, said he was speaking with a lawyer, and was unable to give an interview when called.

Croft said that state agents did not intend to create a scene at Naji’s gallery, but that officers had to ask the crowd of roughly 100 to 150 patrons to leave the gallery when, in his words, some started “chanting obscenities” at the agents.

“My officers went in in plain clothes,” Croft said. We didn’t go in in tac [tactical] gear and lay people on the ground. Unfortunately, it got to the point where we had to close the doors.”

He characterized Naji as “very cooperative.”

Croft said it was his understanding that Cleveland police visited the gallery and warned Naji about an hour before the state agents arrived.

Naji said in an interview on Saturday that the city police officers only told him he couldn’t collect money for drinks. Naji said he made it clear to gallery patrons that he was providing a tip can for the band, not beer and wine.

Croft said he understood that Cleveland and other Ohio cities welcome art galleries, music clubs, theaters and other cultural establishments as businesses that bring vitality and economic growth to urban neighborhoods.

But he said that under state law, giving alcohol away at an art opening without a permit constitutes an illegal sale.

Galleries can apply for an F2 permit, which enables the temporary sale of alcohol for up to four days. Permits can range in cost from $150 to $200, he said.

Galleries can also sell alcohol at openings if the events are sponsored by a non-profit organization and all proceeds benefit the non-profit, Croft said.

Croft said he would not oppose a change in state law that would make it possible for commercial art galleries to serve alcohol at openings without having to apply for a permit on every occasion.

He also said he’d be happy to speak at a public forum with gallery owners about the do’s and don’ts of serving alcohol at openings.

“If we could set up a forum, I’d be more than happy to sit down and discuss it with you or anyone else,” he said. “If it looks like we need to shift the laws they way they are written now, I’m not saying I would be opposed to that.”

State liquor agents raid Friday artist Loren Naji ohio city gallery confiscate beer & wine -hero Henry Senyak & joe threatened


11675795 [at] advancedigital [dot] fyre [dot] co" data-message-id="162899002" class="fyre-comment-article fyre-comment-source-5" style="">
11675795 [at] advancedigital [dot] fyre [dot] co" data-from="CH1993" class="fyre-comment-user">CH1993

CH1993 39 minutes ago

Steven, is there a legal analyst over at the PD/OMG that can verify the article's claim that these galleries can even apply for an F2 permit?  Based on the permit language, they are available only to non-profit organizations, not for for-profit businesses (with the exception of hosting an event solely to benefit a non-profit, as you pointed out).  This was stated in an earlier article, too, and I think it's misleading.  It would be better to use this situation to educate the public the limitations our current (and horribly outdated) liquor laws place on private businesses than to put out incorrect information that makes it look like there is an easy solution for these gallery owners.


10955198 [at] advancedigital [dot] fyre [dot] co" data-message-id="162894141" class="fyre-comment-article fyre-comment-source-5" style="">

10955198 [at] advancedigital [dot] fyre [dot] co" data-from="Harri_Bottox" class="fyre-comment-user">Harri_Bottox

Harri_Bottox 49 minutes ago

Somebody didn't pay-off....


1102854 [at] advancedigital [dot] fyre [dot] co" data-message-id="162891757" class="fyre-comment-article fyre-comment-source-5" style="">

1102854 [at] advancedigital [dot] fyre [dot] co" data-from="statt17" class="fyre-comment-user">statt17

statt17 53 minutes ago

giving something away for free is a sale??? only in Ohio...


1102854 [at] advancedigital [dot] fyre [dot] co" data-message-id="162890928" class="fyre-comment-article fyre-comment-source-5" style="">

1102854 [at] advancedigital [dot] fyre [dot] co" data-from="statt17" class="fyre-comment-user">statt17

statt17 55 minutes ago

chanting obscenities is free speech, agent Croft best get his knowledge of our rights in order rather quickly- never know when the state liquor control will be slapped with a lawsuit for infringement of these rights.  Furthermore, why did they confiscate tips for the the band?  If these tips for not for serving alcohol, the liquor control illegally confiscated this money and should again be taken to court.


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11276649 [at] advancedigital [dot] fyre [dot] co" data-from="Badger937" class="fyre-comment-user">Badger937

Badger937 1 hour ago

"Giving away drinks for free is considered a sale under state law, " To all those complaining about the raid. He dropped $700 on alcohol but wouldn't pony up the $160 for the permit. His own fault. And stop blaming the cops. They warned him, the Liquor Agents did they raid. 


8162244 [at] advancedigital [dot] fyre [dot] co" data-message-id="162878068" class="fyre-comment-article fyre-comment-source-5" style="">

8162244 [at] advancedigital [dot] fyre [dot] co" data-from="BornandraisedCLE" class="fyre-comment-user">BornandraisedCLE

BornandraisedCLE 1 hour ago

"In Naji’s case, Croft said, he was required to investigate once complaints had been received."

Bwahahahaha. Oh man I can't stop laughing.... Bwhahahahahaha. What a joke!








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