Charleston police swept a West Side restaurant and bar Tuesday night after they said several suspects connected to three shootings last week had possibly received guns there.
No guns were found during the search of Shaar’s Bar, located at 829 Central Ave., however police arrested seven people for either outstanding warrants or on simple possession charges.
Charleston Police Lt. Shawn Williams said police decided to target the bar after learning that suspects connected to three shootings last week on Charleston’s West Side had allegedly received guns inside the bar. Police arrested three men in connection to the shootings, believed to be sparked by two feuding families.
Neighbors have made numerous complaints about Shaar’s Bar and its patrons in the past for allegedly smoking cigarettes and marijuana outside on the street, Williams said.
On Tuesday night, about 20 to 30 people were outside the bar smoking and making noise, prompting more complaints from neighbors. Police did not have a search warrant to enter the bar, but bar owner Michael Wibberg gave police permission to come in, Williams said.
Nina Taylor is dating Wibberg. Her boyfriend cooperated with police, Taylor said, because he wanted to prove that he is running a clean, honest business.
“This bar has been here 70 plus years and [Wibberg] has owned this bar almost 10 years,” Taylor said. “We’ve never had any major problems and we’ve always been very cooperative anytime the police want to come in.”
Police brought in drug-detecting dogs Tuesday night and asked employees to open coolers, drawers, ceiling tiles and toilet lids in search of illegal drugs, Taylor said. Police did not find any illegal drugs, Williams said.
However seven Charleston residents inside the bar were arrested on various charges and warrants.
Williams said police are making an effort to crackdown on bars that are prone to alleged criminal activity at the behest of Charleston Mayor Danny Jones. Jones has led efforts to remove bars in the past, such as a nightclub on Capitol Street after a stabbing there in 2011. Police also raided and shutdown an illegal after-hours bar on West Washington Street last September.
Taylor said it’s unfair that her bar and restaurant is lumped with these types of places. Shaar’s Bar does not serve liquor, only beer. The bar was open on Wednesday, she said.
“The mayor has never walked into this establishment,” Taylor said. “If you come in you’re going to see 60-year-old men drinking a beer or little church ladies coming in for dinner after choir practice. This is not a bad place.”
Taylor said she wants to work with the community to reduce the noise complaints and problematic patrons. Bar employees regularly pick up cigarette butts and garbage around the bar, she said.
She blamed the problematic patrons on vacant apartments near the bar, where she said illegal drug activity often takes place. Those people then walk to her bar to have a beer and dinner, she said, sometimes causing problems.
Gig Robertson, spokesman for the State Alcohol Beverage Control Administration, said the establishment license for Shaar’s Bar’s is currently under scrutiny. State ABCA Commissioner Ronald Moats would review police evidence before making a decision about the bar’s future, including closing it down or issuing fines.
“The safety of the public is of the utmost importance to us,” Robertson said.
Seven people were arrested Tuesday night at Shaar’s Bar on minor charges: Carolyn Carter, 66; James Baldwin, 52; Marcus Curtis, 24; George Flood, 48; Isaiah McDade, 37; Jamlia Oliver, 31; and Kenneth England, 45.
Reach Travis Crum