The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

March 28, 2013

Oakhurst bar a menace city can do without

— Cambria County Judge Timothy Creany has been left with little choice but to close Edder’s Den, the beleaguered tavern in Johnstown’s Oakhurst neighborhood.

The president judge on Monday heard lengthy testimony from individuals including police officers and neighbors that painted the bar as a breeding ground for violent, noisy and uncontrolled behavior, which often fan out into residential areas, leaving families living in fear.

While Creany put off any decision until today, we believe it is a foregone conclusion that the bar’s days are numbered. 

The doors at Edder’s Den have been padlocked since last Thursday, action taken in response to a lawsuit filed by District Attorney Kelly Callihan, a move we wholeheartedly support.

In her lawsuit, Callihan lists 68 times the Johnstown Police Department has been called to the Sheridan Street bar between June 30, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2012, including 20 times for assaults and fights and three times for shots fired.

During Monday’s hearing, police officers related that the bar takes up a disproportionate amount of the time the department has for the entire city. Residents told Creany they are fearful because of ongoing fighting and occasional times shots are fired outside the bar. One woman said she has called police 18 times in recent years to report fighting and loud noise.

Prominent, too, was testimony surrounding the October 2011 slaying of       J-Quan Lewis, a New York native who was shot execution style the day following a fight at Edder’s Den.

Pennsylvania liquor enforcement officer William Bell noted that “this is the fourth investigation I’ve been involved in at this bar.”

That in itself says a lot.

It’s obvious that Edder’s Den has had an extremely negative impact on the lives of many children, senior citizens and nearly everyone else in the Oakhurst section.

We hate to see any business close, especially under controversial circumstances. But while we generally respect a business owner’s freedom to make choices regarding his or her establishment, unfortunately, the owner of Edder’s Den has made bad choices that cannot be overlooked, and he has allowed bad choices to be made for him.

We expect that businesses will enhance a neighborhood, and we look for businesspeople to be community leaders. Neither has happened at Edder’s Den.

Closing the bar will have a positive impact on the manpower distribution of the city police department. In addition to the many hours spent defusing trouble there, officers have had to spend an inordinate amount of time during their shifts monitoring activities in and around the bar.

That’s unfair to taxpayers in particular and residents in general of a city already severely short of police manpower.

While we expect those patrons who have caused trouble at Edder’s Den will move on to another establishment, we expect their behavior will be monitored better, both by tavern owners and by liquor enforcement officers.

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