Time For a Change? Ohio’s Liquor Laws and the Emerging Art Scene

Time For a Change? Ohio’s Liquor Laws and the Emerging Art Scene

By: Ryan Burdzinski

My thoughts on the 5/4/14 raid of Loren Naji Gallery in Ohio City

On the Friday evening of May 4th, after fielding several local complaints, the Cleveland Police raided the Loren Naji Gallery in the Cleveland borough of Ohio City. The patrons of the gallery were evacuated, the booze and tip money confiscated. Free wine and beer has always been a tradition in art events in Cleveland along with many other American cities, leaving local art patrons scratching their heads.

“All I’m doing is trying to make the community vibrant and exciting, and I got this thrown at me,” Naji said.

Laren Naji Photo

While unfortunate and ill-timed, I think the raid was justified. The owner, Loren Naji and I have a lot in common academically (Kent State University- graphic design; Cleveland Institute of Art- BFA in painting). Also I have been known to bend the law just a tad- so I am sympathetic to Naji and other Cleveland gallery owners. But I feel that the officers pictured below were just doing their job, most likely sending a message from their superiors.

police raid gallery photo by Josh Usmani

Why this was okay

We cannot expect the city to turn the other way simply because the offenders happen to be an art gallery. If this loophole is exposed then the public will abuse and exploit it. “ART” is already such a broad term, and somewhat subjective. The definition of art lies in the eye of the beholder, and with such a fuzzy line between “art” and “junk”, it will be impossible for the law to be enforced. Picture a party full of youngsters gets broken up by the police- the excuse “it’s an art gallery opening” gets used, and now it’s up to the state to prove/ disprove the statement. I know I would have done such a thing to save my ass. This press has most likely been a good thing for Ohio City’s Loren Naji Gallery. So there’s that.  Overall, I agree with the basic message of the below linked article...change is needed. In my opinion, as a life-long Ohio resident, the struggling city of Cleveland cannot afford to shut down one of the few growing trends it has. 

Your Opinion?

Do you think art galleries should have more freedom to serve alcohol at special events? Will you be willing push City Hall for change? Or just write a blog about it like me and hope something happens? I encourage your comments below.


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