Bar owner James Overton established the Reign Lounge, he said, to create “something north Omaha didn’t already have,” but neighbors and some members of the Florence community are calling on the city to revoke the bar’s liquor license.
The Omaha City Council voted 6-1 on May 21 to postpone a hearing that would ultimately decide the bar’s fate. Councilman Pete Festersen was the lone no vote.
The postponement came with a stipulation: Within the next six months, Overton must take steps to add more parking and continue working with police to keep his patrons off other people’s properties.
Overton said in an interview that parking has been the bar’s biggest challenge and that he’s working to resolve the problem. Reign Lounge can fit about 400 people, but its parking lot can hold only about 50 cars.
The council also heard complaints beyond parking problems.
The Omaha police presence in the area increased in January 2018 after the shooting death of Army Sgt. Kyle LeFlore outside the Reign Lounge.
Omaha Police Capt. Mark Matuza mentioned complaints since the shooting that include more than 100 traffic stops in the area, 90 parking violations, 50 911 radio calls made by neighbors, 100 citations, 15 cars towed as a result of parking violations, 20 misdemeanor arrests and a gun arrest.
“Within three months, we’re easily talking 300 man hours from the Police Department given to the Reign bar in monitoring and making sure things are going as smooth as possible,” Matuza said.
Matuza acknowledged that Overton hired off-duty police officers to help monitor the bar and its patrons as they come and go.
Lonnie Albertson, who owns Albertson Brothers Glass next door, spoke against the bar.
“The last three years there’s been trash everywhere, from condoms, to broken bottles, piles of vomit, peeing on the back of our door,” he said.
Jerry Zulfer, who lives about 12 blocks from the bar, said at the council meeting, “In my 80 years and all the time that I used to drink, I have never went in a bar where somebody had to pat me down. That tells you what the clientele is.”
Overton said he thinks his business is “more or less being targeted.”
“They look at us as another urban hip-hop bar with a bunch of troublemakers, and that’s not what we’re about,” he said.
Overton added that he wants to invest more money in Florence and possibly create an entertainment district.
“That’s what I want to see within the next five years. This area come up and grow to where there is another option for the people of north Omaha.”