The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 21, 2013

Closing time: Oakhurst lounge locked, hearing next week

Kathy Mellott

EBENSBURG — A Cambria County judge Thursday ordered the immediate closing of Edder’s Den, and sheriff’s deputies were dispatched from the courthouse at 3 p.m. to have the locks changed.

The order, signed by President Judge Timothy Creany, closed the bar at least until Monday when a hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the courthouse in Ebensburg.

“We got two guys headed down there now. One deputy will meet them and we’ll have a locksmith there,” Cambria County Sheriff Bob Kolar said.

The immediate closing came three days after Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan filed a civil lawsuit against the owner of the Oakhurst bar. The suit asking the court to intervene cited ongoing crime in the neighborhood as the basis.

In his opinion, Creany said he based his decision to grant the temporary injunction closing the bar on concerns raised by Callihan that its operation is causing immediate and irreparable injury to the commonwealth and particularly the city of Johnstown.

It appears, he said in the court order, that the operation of Sheri-Den Inc., also known as Edder’s Den, “constitutes a public nuisance which threatens the peace, safety and public welfare and morals of the commonwealth.”

The bar, at 534 Sheridan St., whose owner is listed as Edward Gawel, will remain closed until farther court order, Creany said.

Creany’s order left the sheriff scrambling as he searched for the best way to close the bar and make sure it stayed secure during the weekend.

Having deputies man the facility 24 hours a day was not one of his options, he said.

After conferring with the district attorney and the judge, Kolar opted to bring in Spory’s Locksmith of the 1200 block of Scalp Avenue in Richland Township to install new locks on the establishment’s doors.

“And the keys come back with my deputies,” Kolar said.

The 2-inch-thick civil lawsuit filed by Callihan earlier this week seeking to have Edder’s Den deemed a nuisance bar cites 68 times the Johnstown Police Department has been called to the address between June 30, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2012.

The incidents include 20 times for assaults and fights and three times for shots fired.

The bar has received numerous citations by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated people, serving after hours, providing false information on liquor license application and other violations.

Fear levels of those living around the bar have reached the point that many residents interviewed in a recent investigation declined to give their names for fear of reprisal from Edder’s Den patrons, the lawsuit states.

More than a half-dozen subpoenas seeking witnesses for Monday’s hearing were being served by sheriff’s deputies on Thursday.