CLEVELAND, Ohio – The embattled Ohio City art gallery owner raided by undercover liquor agents this spring told a judge Monday the law he’s charged under is unconstitutionally vague.
Loren Naji is charged with selling alcohol without a permit after Ohio Department of Public Safety agents raided his West 25th Street gallery May 2 and confiscated more than $600 in beer and wine and a coffee can with $53.
Prosecutors accused Naji of collecting donations for the alcohol and consider that an illegal sale, according to a motion filed this week. A judge will hold a hearing on the motion Sept. 5.
Two undercover agents slipped into the gallery and saw what Naji referred to in a May interview as “the pit” – a large, elevated cooler filled with hundreds of bottles of beer and wine on ice.
The agents each grabbed a bottle of beer – one a Heineken, the other a Third Shift Lager – and walked up to a woman sitting at a table. A coffee can with “DONATIONS for the band” written on the side sat in front of her.
The agent asked how much the beer cost, and the woman “indicated they should donate whatever felt right in their hearts and placed a hand on the donation can,” according to a motion filed in court Monday.
Naji did not apply for a temporary liquor license that would allow him to sell beer and wine.
But attorneys representing Naji insist the gallery owner was giving the beer away for free, and that the donations were for the band playing later that night.
State law defines sale to include among other things the exchange, barter, gift, offer for sale and the transfer of the title of possession of alcoholic beverages to another.
Naji’s attorneys argued the statute is too vague and would consider even giving a beer to a friend an “unlawful sale,” according to a motion filed Aug. 5. They argued the charges should be thrown out.