When gunshots rang out in the night a few weeks ago in front of a Sandusky bar, angry neighbors were understandably upset. Some talked of revocation of the bar owner's liquor license and closing of the business.
The bar, and many others like it, is a throwback to an era when nearly every neighborhood had a saloon, a grocery store and at least one church. Though most corner groceries succumbed to the wheels of progress, and people ventured further than their local worship center, neighborhood bars continue to thrive. In many instances, the clientele for these watering holes has become more diverse than just a gathering of neighbors and the climate of the establishments have changed.
Modern zoning laws would question the placement of a bar in a residential area, but many existing bars have been grandfathered in their present locations. Bar owners and their employees have a number of laws to which they must adhere to keep their licenses: Don't serve minors; don't serve drunks; obey noise limits laws; post signs forbidding firearms or smoking; adhere to capacity restrictions; be vigilant to agressive behavior, pay taxes and cooperate with law enforcement officers. Beyond the limits of the laws, there is little they can do to ensure no trouble will pop up in their bars and even less to curb activity outside their businesses.
We expect all business owners to be good neighbors and we require they heed the law, but we can't realistically expect them to have X-ray vision to see weapons or be fortunetellers to anticipate patrons' intentions or inclinations to violence. Bar patrons who step over the line should be held responsible for their behavior. But the business owner is as much a victim of battling barhoppers as those involved in fights.