Salt Lake police and a slew of business owners want a downtown bar with a notorious reputation shut down.
The Annex Bar, 666 S. State, has been the site of an unusually high number of arrests connected with a murder, aggravated assaults and fights. In fact, the bar seems to be a magnet - drawing prostitutes and drug dealers into the alleys and streets nearby, according to a notice of charges filed by Salt Lake City Corp. with Mayor Palmer DePaulis' office.Police and several business owners near the tavern are hoping the city will deny the lounge's application for renewal of a license to operate the bar.
"This is a serious threat to the health and safety of the residents of Salt Lake City," Assistant Salt Lake City Attorney Larry Spendlove told a hearing officer Friday.
Business owners at a license-revocation hearing for the bar told court officer Janet Embrey the tavern causes problems for their employees.
"My employees don't feel safe when they go to their cars after work," said Rick Winter of Karl Winter Co., 61 E. 700 South.
Winter, who has operated the business since 1967, said he discourages his 13-year-old son from coming to the building.
"He used to help sweep up, but with all the needles and trash, I discourage him from even coming down," Winter said. "We are constantly cleaning up human waste and broken beer bottles."
The notice of charges said large groups of people, who are customers at the bar, congregate outside and "verbally harass, taunt and threaten passers-by and customers of nearby businesses."
The document also listed 21 accounts of incidents describing fights with pool balls and sticks, arrests of people using drugs in the tavern, a man with a gun shooting at the feet of other customers, and even the murder of a man who was stabbed while he was leaving the bar.
"I would love to see that place closed down. That place is Salt Lake's nightmare," Salt Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Rogers testified.
Lawyer Larry Long, representing the Annex Bar and its operator, Teresa Duran Avila, admitted "there's no question about the problem with drugs and prostitution in the area."
Long asked for the business to be placed on probation for a year, contending the bar has made efforts to clean up the problems.
Business operators near the tavern admit things have improved during the last two weeks.
"The difference has been night and day," Winters said.
But Winters is skeptical and thinks "things will return to normal" if the tavern's license is renewed.
Avila promised the Annex Bar and surrounding area won't return to its previous condition if she has "anything to do with it." She claimed, "When I was there, drugs was never going on. I was not aware any of this stuff was going on."
However, the notice of charges says city officials and law enforcement officers have told the licensee that illegal activities are "being conducted at or about the Annex Bar . . . but licensee has failed and refused to take meaningful and necessary actions to correct said problems."
The hearing officer took the city's motion to revoke the license under advisement without indicating when she would rule. Once she does, either side will have 30 days to appeal the decision to DePaulis.