Skirmishes at downtown Jax bar leads to action from liquor commission

By Gary Scott on January 13, 2016 at 12:37pm

Still of a cell phone video shot of a New Year's Day fight in downtown Jacksonville.

A downtown Jacksonville bar is apparently working out a compromise after the city threatened to revoke its liquor license for a 23-day period.

Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard, in his capacity as the liquor commission chairman, says he consulted with aldermen Tony Williams and Don Cook, who also serve on that board to come to the decision regarding On The Rox after several incidents at the bar.

Six people were arrested after a large street fight in downtown Jacksonville early on New Year’s Day. Video of the incident shows a large group of people gathered in front of the South Main Street entrance of On the Rox, although police reports don’t say if the fight started in the bar.

More recently, police arrested a man for possession of a gun without a FOID card after a reported disturbance at the bar last weekend.

Ezard says previous suggestions made to On The Rox management by the Jacksonville police chief were not followed.

“I was getting very tired of our police being called down to On The Rox, basically every weekend, [with] the fighting and things going on there, and I felt they needed to get their act together,” says Ezard.

“I think public safety to their patrons and to my police department is why I did that. I don’t want anything to happen. But, I’m certainly not naïve that things can go on in a bar. I don’t have the heavy hand as far as wanting to see folks out of jobs for days, that’s their livelihood,” he continues.

A $500 fine is also factored into the disciplinary measure. Although bars have been fined before, Ezard says this is the first time he’s taken this level of action.

A letter advising a public hearing that would be conducted Friday was mailed this week to Jay James, the business owner and his attorney, Dan Fults of Brown, Hay and Stephens of Springfield. However, Ezard says the meeting has been called off.

“After working with City Attorney [Dan] Beard and the other liquor commission members, and the rest of the city council in exec session Monday night, we all came to an understanding that maybe a compromise might be appropriate. I may have been a little hard on the sanctions, but in the future they know that we want to send a clear message that we’re going to keep a close eye on things,” Ezard says.

“I think we are sending a clear message to On The Rox that we will keep a close eye on them, and they will have to get their act together, or tougher sanctions will definitely be levied in the future.”

We called On The Rox this morning and spoke to a manager, who said the business has no comment on the matter at this time.