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City takes ownership of West Side bar deemed 'ground zero' for crime

Charleston now owns a former troubled bar as part of plea negotiations with the former owner. (WCHS/WVAH)

It's being called the biggest takedown of a drug establishment in years in Charleston.

The city has now taken complete control of the troubled Park Place bar on the West Side and believe it's closure will have extreme ripple effects on Charleston crime.

Last Friday, the bar's owner Steve Fisher, handed over the deed to the Central Avenue property as part of plea negotiations for crimes he was facing.

The establishment has been called "ground zero" for crime on the West Side.

"What was happening in here was a large scale drug enterprise was being conducted. Every type of drug that you could want could be found here," explained Chief Steve Cooper. "Almost any crime that you could imagine that I would call a 'quality of life violation' was taking place right here in this structure."

An undercover drug investigation spanning four months now over and taking down nearly a dozen people.

"We would see neighbors in this area and we would ask them, 'what are your areas of concerns for your neighborhood?' Almost every single person would point to this bar directly and say 'it's all happening here,'" says assistant Kanawha County Prosecutor Maryclaire Akers.

Neighbors were right. A study examining crime over a period of several years shows that Park Place was the central location for police calls. There were 500 of them during the time frame, putting it within two blocks of the center for homicide locations.

"There's no more, you know, I don't have to worry about somebody coming through my window or something like that because all that riff raft is gone," a neighbor who lives nearby but didn't want to be identified said.

She says she will decorate her porch for Halloween for the first time in five years.

"I'm just so thankful that it's gone," she said.

"A place like this could have defined a neighborhood," Mayor Danny Jones says. He is unsure about what the future holds for the building but is adamant about one thing.

"The key is not to let, whoever gets it, whatever they want to put in here...you can't have a beer license," he says.

"We've removed the equivalent of a large malignant tumor from the West Side," Cooper says.

The neighbor now finding a new peace in a place she once feared. Her own front porch.

"It's amazing. You hear nothing. Nothing at all."

A total of ten arrests were made as part of the investigation. Akers says one more is still being investigated.

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