GRAFTON TWP. — The Jailhouse Taverne is urging patrons and others to oust two incumbent township trustees in response to a noise resolution passed last month that the business says was meant to keep it from having outdoor concerts.
But replacing the two likely won’t help its cause.
Candidates Christie Homer-Miller and Andy Weigel, who have garnered the support of The Jailhouse Taverne in social media postings and who are challenging incumbents John Kasinec and Carl Wesemeyer, both said they don’t plan to overturn the resolution.
Weigel, who has been difficult to talk with regarding the election — he did not respond to an information request for The Chronicle-Telegram’s Election Guide — did release a statement by way of a family member about his position.
“I side with the people in the township,” the statement said. “I care about the residents and not what those outside the township want. The trustees serve the residents.”
Homer-Miller was a bit more diplomatic in her response, but she echoed Weigel.
“I would absolutely vote for the residents,” she said. “But you have to keep in mind some residents don’t have a problem with it, while other residents do. The trustees represent the residents. You have to do what’s right for them.”
Homer-Miller said she has spoken with people from The Jailhouse Taverne and has told them her stance. Still, the social media campaign to oust Wesemeyer and Kasinec continues to build, she said.
“I get that they are targeting those two because they’re up for election, but there are three trustees (that voted for the noise resolution),” Homer Miller said. “You know exactly what they’re doing. To anybody that can think things through, you can see it. There are other people who aren’t listening to all sides or getting all sides.”
If elected, Homer-Miller said she would push for a public meeting on the matter. She feels that both sides need to get together and discuss things.
“This isn’t going to go away,” she said. “The Jailhouse is still going to want to have music. The residents are still going to have a problem if they’re directly affected. I know from talking with some residents who live in that area and are immediately affected. They cannot have conversations outside where you can hear one another speak. Other people can’t hear their televisions with the windows closed and the air conditioning running. In another case, folks’ windows are rattling on the house from the reverb from the music.
“Something’s got to be done to where these neighbors — business and residential — can get along.”
The Jailhouse Taverne created an online petition pushing for the resolution to be overturned and is preparing for an election night party. Also, it created a job posting for volunteers to pass out flyers at the polling place Nov. 7. Despite multiple requests, The Jailhouse Taverne has declined to discuss the issue with The Chronicle.
The social media campaign originated after the trustees on Sept. 12 unanimously passed a noise resolution banning any noise, such as live music, that can be heard 100 feet from the property from which the sound is emanating. Trustees have said that the resolution was a direct result of complaints about The Jailhouse Taverne.
Problems from start
According to Wesemeyer, an incumbent trustee, The Jailhouse Taverne and the township were at odds before the noise problems began.
Before the owners of The Jailhouse Taverne bought the property, the business had been the Trading Post. In the spring of 2012 there was a fire at the building that was ruled arson. The following July there was a second fire, which was ruled accidental.
“These people decided they were going to rebuild it as a bar,” Wesemeyer said. “Since they built it on the same footprint as the old building, they didn’t need to get a permit from the township because they were basically rebuilding and not starting from scratch.”
The Jailhouse Taverne opened in 2016. Wesemeyer said the owners never approached the township to say they were planning on having concerts.
The problems began, though, when The Jailhouse Taverne added a structure over the patio in the back where the bands play, according to Wesemeyer.
“At that point, the only issue the township had was they built (the structure over the deck) that they never got a permit for,” he said. “If I have a resident in the township and they’re going to build a garage behind their house, you have to get a permit. If you’re going to put an addition on your house, you’ve got to get a permit.”
According to the trustees meeting minutes from May 9, The Jailhouse Taverne was sent a violation notice for not obtaining a zoning permit for the structure. The business gave no response to the notice to the township, but instead began an advertising campaign calling out the trustees.
“In May, they sent out a flyer saying how the trustees were all against ‘the music,’” Wesemeyer said. “We weren’t against the music, at that point. At that point, the only thing we had a complaint about was the structure and not getting a permit.”
Once the structure was built, though, it wasn’t as simple as just getting the permit from the township.
“No, because they created hardship for themselves,” Wesemeyer said. “They went ahead and built the thing first. That automatically doubles the fee. It’s automatic. We do that to anybody that builds a building first and then we catch them.”
There also was a second problem with the construction of the structure, according to Wesemeyer.
“When they built the structure, it’s too close to one of the roads, so they needed to get a variance,” he said.
According to the minutes from the trustees meeting
Aug. 8, an attorney for The Jailhouse Taverne said they didn’t consider the cover to be a structure.
“That’s fine; you don’t consider it a structure,” Wesemeyer said. “That’s what this whole variance thing is for. It’s a Zoning Board of Appeals. You come and appeal the decision on whether it’s a structure or that it’s too close to the road. That’s your right. We want you do it, but you have to do it.”
Since that time, the township has forwarded the matter to the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office, according to Wesemeyer.
The incumbents say The Jailhouse Taverne is spreading false information through ads in a local weekly newspaper and on social media.
“They’ve built a house of cards here based on some things that just aren’t true,” Kasinec said. “Basically, they knew what the problem was back on Memorial Day weekend when they started having these concerts. They knew they were too loud, past 10 p.m. on weeknights and past 11 p.m. on weekends. They ignored that ordinance.”
On The Jailhouse Taverne’s Facebook page, there is a banner across the top that says “Vote no on big government” along with photos of Kasinec and Wesemeyer crossed out.
“One of the things they keep talking about is that this is big government going after a little business,” Kasinec said. “I think they’ve got that backward. We’re a little government. We’re the smallest form of government you can have in the state of Ohio. My understanding is that they’re pretty wealthy individuals using their money and influence to go after us.”
The business also has been touting a petition on change.org to have the trustees reverse the noise resolution, which has collected thousands of signatures. The Jailhouse Taverne has said that there are only 2,700 residents in the township, so it obviously has the support of the people.
Wesemeyer isn’t buying it.
“First of all, as you can see on the website, anybody can do these petitions,” he said. “All these people sign the petition. Some of the people who have signed it are from Cuyahoga Falls. What do I, as a trustee of Grafton Township, give a darn what the guy from Cuyahoga Falls feels? It’s not his noise; he doesn’t live here. When he’s coming, he wants to hear that noise, but when he’s tired of it, he goes home.”
Homer-Miller agrees with her opponents.
“It definitely bothers me because (The Jailhouse Taverne) come across with a bully mentality, and that’s really unfortunate,” she said. “They don’t come across as wanting to be a good neighbor, or being part of the township in a positive light or way. They’re spinning it for their own benefit.”
Kasinec believes The Jailhouse Taverne is using the whole thing for publicity.
“That establishment has a ‘bad-boy’ image being The Jailhouse, and that’s how they’ve built their whole persona,” he said. “It works for them, I guess. That’s what they’re striving for. Putting a picture of one of the owners behind jailhouse bars (in an advertisement) makes a lot of sense. It’s great publicity.”
Whether or not the campaign to oust the two incumbents works, Wesemeyer doesn’t believe it’ll change anything regarding the noise resolution.
“If John and I both get defeated, that means Andy and Christie are going to be in there with Jean Haight,” he said. “I can’t see them backing down to these people; I really can’t. They’re still going to have the same fight.
“If everybody thinks Carl Wesemeyer isn’t the guy to do this, hey, that’s the voters’ choice, and that’s always the voters’ choice. If they decide they do want me there, then by God, I’m going to stick with my guns and not let the people down.”
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