County temporarily shuts down Cincinnati area bar

El Paso News

Official documents allege wide range of illegal activity, including drug sales, assault, serving alcohol to minors

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – A Cincinnati entertainment area bar is temporarily closed amid ongoing scrutiny by the El Paso County Attorney’s office. It faces a one-year closure after investigators allege employees sold drugs, patrons drugged drinks, and minors were served alcohol under its roof.

Frank Ricci, the Rockin’ Cigar Bar & Grill owner, was notified of a restraining order toward his business on Thursday after the county attorney’s office filed a lawsuit on Tuesday. The bar will remain closed until the injunction hearing is scheduled in early December.

“We intend on defending ourselves in court,” Ricci told KTSM 9 News.

“The problem is is that, this is sort of a gotcha moment where they announce this a few hours before the busiest day of the year,” he said. “For us, this is when we start turning our company into the black. And, I do believe this was a strategic move for political reasons.”

The petition filed in civil court alleges various reasons for wanting to close the business, including alleged complaints of overcrowding, selling alcohol to drunken patrons, and numerous altercations stemming from the bar.

The attorney’s office is also seeking a temporary injunction against the bar to keep the business closed.

“Defendants knowingly tolerate the criminal activity and fail to make reasonable attempts to abate these activities,” the county attorney’s office alleges in its lawsuit.

The county attorney’s office says there are 65 documented incidents by law enforcement that allegedly violate the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission’s rules and regulations. Also, the attorney’s offices claims the bar’s ownership has not taken steps to address nuisances and alleges the bar tolerates violations, and other illegal acts.

A review of calls to the Rockin’ Cigar Bar, show out of 111 calls for service between February 1, 2018 and November 18, 2021, 57 were made to the El Paso Police Department. And, eight calls were made for the fire department.

“Local, state and federal law enforcement has brought the habitual criminal conduct and other violations that occurs at (the bar) to the attention of the defendants but no action by the defendants to stop the activity at (the bar) has been observed,” the lawsuit states.

The bar is one of the locations, U.S. army personnel cannot visit. And investigators from Fort Bliss worked with the El Paso Police Department to conduct surveillance on the business.

In one example, an undercover investigator from an Army investigator was allegedly assaulted at the bar after allegedly purchasing cocaine from the bouncer. An affidavit of the alleged assault says on October 24, an Army agent and El Paso police identified the individual who assaulted the other Army agent.

The unnamed subject was grabbed before he attempted to flee from law enforcement. According to the affidavit, he was then tackled by other officers when an object fell out of his waistband.

“I saw a gun on the floor and took immediate possession of it,” the affidavit states. “As this was all going on, people in the crowd were attempting to intervene and prevent him from being arrested.”

The officer stated people in the crowd shouted, “That’s the bouncer, leave him alone!” Police then moved him after the crowd began chanting anti-police remarks.

Part of law enforcement’s surveillance of the bar includes the sighting of what police say are biker gangs. But Ricci contests the police’s characterization of the bikers, saying he will not reject patrons solely on how they dress or appear.

But if they present a danger, they’ll be removed from the property, he added.

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