Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Last call at Tag's Tap Room?

Eyesore Pisgah bar may become parking lot

By Jennifer Edwards, jedwards@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Officials here are cracking down on longtime code violations at a run-down tavern that has become an eyesore in this booming suburb.

        But the legalities may be moot because last call at Tag's Tap Room could be coming soon. The owner, Earl Leary, said the building is on the verge of being sold; and if the sale goes through, it will be torn down and replaced with a parking lot by its new owner. The building has been on the market two years.

        “The sale is in the makings right now, if the guy comes around with the money,” said Mr. Leary, 76, who opened the bar on U.S. 42 in 1961.

        Pisgah, the township's oldest business district, peaked in the 1970s but began waning about 15 years ago as the boom accelerated in West Chester along Interstate 75. What remains today is an aging row of small businesses, some in buildings that have become too small for merchants who either moved into bigger facilities nearby or abandoned the area.

        Recently, however, there has been some renewed vigor along U.S. 42, which stretches from the Hamilton County line in Sharonville northeast to the Warren County line in Mason.

        But Tag's Tap Room is among the worst of the older buildings. Over the years, the small, one-story tavern has crumbled, and those he hired to fix the structure have done shabby work, worsening the problem, Mr. Leary said.

        The violations have gone on so long — since December 2000 — the township met with him and his attorney Monday at West Chester Area III Court in the West Chester Police Department. There are numerous outstanding property maintenance and zoning violations, township zoning records show.

        Officials toured the bar Thursday and said the violations still exist. On Monday, a judge gave Mr. Leary another month to clean up his business, sell it, or face a trial.

        Mr. Leary and his attorney, however, maintain most of the code violations have been corrected. Mr. Leary said he just wants to get his money back out of the building and retire.

        “Half of my life is in this thing, but I'm really tired now and have to rely on a lot of help,” said Mr. Leary. “It's really too much for me.”

        The removal of the tavern would boost Pisgah's crumbling facade, said West Chester Trustees President Jose Alvarez. He is helping a redevelopment effort under way in the area with the Southeastern Butler County Chamber of Commerce. Recommendations to spruce up the area could come this summer.

        Nearby merchants who consider the bar the worst eyesore in the area were thrilled to hear it may go.

        “Excellent. That's wonderful,” said Eric Koren, who owns a 9,000-square-foot office and retail building up the street from Tag's. He has blamed difficulty leasing out two longtime vacant suites in his building on his surroundings.

        But those spaces are filling up. A digital photography studio is expected to move into one of his vacant suites this week. The other vacancy might soon be occupied by a fitness center, he said.


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