INDIANAPOLIS — IMPD led a push to revoke the liquor licenses of two downtown bars where they have dealt with numerous problems and spent heavy resources to keep the area in and around the nightclubs safe.
The liquor licenses for Taps & Dolls and Tiki Bob's came before the Marion County Alcoholic Beverage Board for renewal Monday. IMPD and community leaders testified about fights, shootings, sexual assaults and highly intoxicated customers creating large, unruly crowds on South Meridian Street on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
"There's a significant perception out there that downtown is unsafe," said Sherry Seiwert, president of Downtown Indy Inc. "On the whole, it's relatively safe with the exception of the 200 block of South Meridian. We need to do everything that we can to correct that situation."
The board recommended that the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission deny the liquor license renewal of Taps & Dolls.
Marion County Alcoholic Beverage Board Commissioner Tyler Graves addressed Taps & Dolls owner Ryan Greb before making the motion to deny the license renewal.
"You've lied to us under oath," Graves said. "You have a problem with taxes periodically. We get a lot of half-truths — and that may be generous — and we have violation reports that are 15 pages long."
Taps & Dolls can stay open while the bar appeals the board's recommendation to the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission.
IMPD said they spent more than $1 million in 2019 and $600,000 in 2021 trying to keep the area around the two bars staffed with enough officers to keep people safe. That budget was lower in 2020 because of the pandemic.
"I have personally witnessed fights spilling out of Tiki Bob's into the street, people with handguns," IMPD Downtown District Capt. Scott Hessong told the board. "I have seen people come out of Tiki Bob's that have obviously been overserved because they can't even stand up."
Tiki Bob's owner Jason Stellema understood the frustration but said there's only so much his business can do.
"I read through some of these things and trust me, they're frustrating," Stellema told the board. "I wish none of this stuff happened. But there's only so much that we can actually control."
With some reluctance, the board renewed Tiki Bob's license for another year. The owners promised to clean up their act before they come back before the board in September. They plan to implement an electronic system for identifying patrons who have been banned from the bar. They also pledged additional training for bartenders on overserving and more training for security on de-escalation tactics.