The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 28, 2013

Judge: Bar can reopen

Edder’s Den owner agrees to requirements

EBENSBURG — In a deal that both sides say will work, Edder’s Den, the embattled Oakhurst bar, is reopening a week after a county judge ordered it closed.

Judge Timothy Creany on Thursday approved a consent agreement that included an order that Cambria County Sheriff Bob Kolar turn over the keys to the bar immediately to owner Edward Gawel.

But the agreement also includes a list of things Gawel must undertake as soon as possible in order to keep the doors open.

“It’s the best way to have the owners cooperate with Johnstown police and the best way to alleviate the problems in the neighborhood,” Creany said in approving the consent agreement.

The deal hammered out in a two-hour meeting Wednesday between Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan and Gawel’s attorney, David Weaver, is in response to a civil lawsuit filed last week by Callihan claiming  the bar was a nuisance and asking the judge to close its doors for a year.

She immediately followed that with a request for a temporary injunction until the matter could be heard in court, something Creany responded to by ordering the sheriff to change the locks on the doors of the bar, located across the street from the Oakhurst Homes.

At a hearing Monday, Cambria County Deputy District Attorney Scott Lilly presented a host of police and private citizens who testified on the problems created in recent years involving people believed to be patrons of the bar.

In a 30-month time frame from mid-2010 to late 2012, the police department responded to nearly 70 calls from the bar or likely involving bar patrons.

Weaver, in cross examination, attempted to illustrate that some of the problems may have been from the neighborhood and people passing through.

The consent order attempts to eliminate any confusion by requiring Gawel to install electronic equipment and require all bar patrons to swipe their identification. The names will be retained for a minimum of 30 days.

“These are conditions that will enable us to monitor it,” Callihan said following Thursday’s approval of the consent agreement. “I think this is a better long-term solution. Shutting the bar would have been a short-term solution.”

Callihan said law limited her to seeking its closure for one year, then it likely would have reopened with the same problems.

Weaver said Gawel is already working on the requirements in the consent order.

“I think this whole matter was born out of frustration,” he said.

Many of the problems linked to the bar involve out-of-towners believed to come to Johnstown to deal drugs. The hope is that identification may cut down on the criminal element going to Edder’s.

Along with the identification swipe, Gawel has agreed to do the following:

• Install a video surveillance camera covering the parking lot.

• Restrict hours of operation, closing at 1 a.m. with last call at 12:30 a.m.

• Have a bar representative inspect the outside premises of the bar hourly.

• Gawel or his representative will promptly notify Johnstown police and immediately seek police assistance upon being apprised of any criminal activity.

Not a part of the order, but agreed to by Gawel, is a condition that he will keep a log of the checks of the outside of the building and maintain the security tapes for 30 days.

The order signed by Creany directed the sheriff’s department to reinstall the locks that were removed and return the keys to Gawel.

“Effective immediately, Mr. Gawel is permitted to exercise full ownership of the subject premises and may operate according to the law,” stated the order signed by the judge.

As of Thursday evening, the bar remained closed.

Callihan said she is convinced the agreement will be helpful to the police in keeping peace in the Oakhurst neighborhood with support from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

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