Tiki Bob's, featured in IndyStar probe of violence, closes after weekend shooting

  • In US
  • 2023-02-07 20:54:36Z
  • By IndyStar | The Indianapolis Star

Tiki Bob's Cantina, a Downtown bar that police say has attracted hundreds of runs over the past few years, is closing its doors, according to a Facebook post by one of its owners.

The club has also informed Indianapolis police that it will not re-open after a shooting during the early morning hours Sunday.

"In 2001 I moved to Indianapolis and became involved with a little bar called Tiki Bob's Cantina," co-owner Jason Stellema said in a Facebook post. "Fast forward 22 years and we have finally decided to hang it up."

Stellema and attorneys for the bar did not respond to messages from IndyStar. When asked about reports of the bar's closing, its other owner, Jason Jenkins, told IndyStar, "I can't confirm anything."

The announcement that the bar will be closed comes just days after IndyStar published an investigation into violence at Indianapolis bars and clubs that prominently featured Tiki Bob's. It also followed reports of continued problems at the bar over the weekend.

Read IndyStar's full investigation:How Indiana law protects bad bars

Bar goers walk down the sidewalk Saturday, Jan.
Bar goers walk down the sidewalk Saturday, Jan.  

A police report shows officers responded to gunfire outside the bar at about 2 a.m. Sunday. Nobody was injured in the shooting.

The bar's owners informed IMPD on Sunday that they planned to close the bar effective immediately and place their liquor license in escrow. The owners told police they hope to re-open the space as a restaurant.

The shooting took place just one day before Tiki Bob's was scheduled to appear before the Alcoholic Beverage Board of Marion County for a license renewal hearing. IMPD was planning to oppose the request.

The board's chairman, Tyler Graves, said Monday the timing of the shooting incident couldn't have been worse for Tiki Bob's owners.

"You want to talk about bad timing?" he said . "There's no good timing for shots. But last night … that was a really bad time, and I think those guys knew: That's not gonna go well."

The hearing was continued to March.

Last year, police urged the alcohol regulators to shut down the bar, citing 466 police runs to Tiki Bob's between 2019 and 2022. Police say there were five shootings with two injuries during that time. Attorneys for the bar have disputed those figures.

Representatives from Mayor Joe Hogsett's office and a number of Downtown business owners and residents also testified against the bar or wrote letters opposing its license renewal.

Tiki Bob’s Cantina owner Jason Stellema, left, and the club’s attorney, N.
Tiki Bob’s Cantina owner Jason Stellema, left, and the club’s attorney, N.  

Despite the objections, the local alcohol board, which makes recommendations to the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission, voted in March to renew the bar's license for one year. The ATC upheld the decision.

IndyStar's investigation found problems at the bar have continued since then.

In April, IMPD ran an undercover operation at Tiki Bob's. Police reported an underage woman used her ID to enter the bar and buy a drink. And a female undercover detective, who is Black, used the ID of a white woman and was allowed to enter.

In November, police arrested three people - including two 17-year-old girls - after a fight inside the club spilled onto the sidewalk. One of the girls was five weeks pregnant and had been kicked several times in the stomach, according to police.

Despite the continued problems, police say they are powerless to shut down Tiki Bob's and other bars with histories of violence and other issues. That's because state law prohibits cities from regulating alcohol businesses. Only the ATC has that authority.

But IndyStar's investigation, produced in partnership with Fox59, found a pattern of poor oversight, lax enforcement and understaffing at the state agency. As a result, bars and clubs can remain open even after dozens of police runs, multiple shootings and the arrest of the owner.

The owners of Tiki Bob's have not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing. In his Facebook post, Stellema blamed the bar's problems on what he called an immense change in society and painted himself as the victim.

"Sadly I no longer have the desire to be deemed responsible for the abhorrent behavior of a minute segment of our society that has no respect for themselves or others," he wrote. "After serving over 100,000 customers per year we've found it only takes a handful of bad actors to destroy the reputation and vitality of a business. Criminals are no longer held accountable for their actions and I refuse to be the scapegoat for the violent crime plaguing the beautiful City of Indianapolis any longer."

In all, IndyStar's investigation identified more than 600 reports of violent acts tied to several dozen Indianapolis bars, clubs and event centers across the city since 2016. That includes 202 incidents involving gunfire, 37 rapes and sexual assaults and 20 stabbings, according to police reports.

More:Disturbing Snapchat. 'Date-rape' drug. Two dead women: Families want answers cops don't have

The violence has left a grim toll: at least 49 people dead and more than 150 others injured in shootings or stabbings.

During Monday's local alcohol board meeting, liquor license renewal hearings for several other bars featured in IndyStar's investigation were also continued to next month.

That includes Kalakutah Republic, a restaurant and club in the Lafayette Square area. Police have responded to multiple shootings there since 2020, one of them fatal, and its owner faces charges of corrupt business influence and failure to pay taxes.

The license renewal case was continued at the request of its attorney, Mark Webb, who is a former ATC official. He told IndyStar his client is looking to get out of the business.

Police say El Chila Sports Bar bar has been the site of multiple shootings, including one that left a man dead in October.
Police say El Chila Sports Bar bar has been the site of multiple shootings, including one that left a man dead in October.  

Bars with violent histories:Here are the former insiders and lobbyists who help them stay open

Also continued was a case involving El Chila Sports Bar on the city's west side. Police say the bar has been the site of multiple shootings, including one that left a man dead in October. Its owner is also facing charges of corrupt business influence and tax evasion. The bar remains open.

Contact IndyStar reporter Tony Cook at 317-444-6081 or tony.cook@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @IndyStarTony.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Tiki Bob's, a magnet for complaints, will 'hang it up,' owner says


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