Former bar along Putnam Avenue demolished, community wants investment


By Staff Report

A building that was the site of numerous police calls and criminal activity was torn down earlier this month after the property was forfeited by its owner as part of a plea deal to avoid prison.

Hoppy’s Bar, as it was most recently known, located along Putnam Avenue, hosted ‘after hour’ events and illegally sold alcohol and drugs, according to the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office.

Some community members, however, question the decision to destroy the building, which they argue, could have been used as a place of recreation to keep area youth out of trouble or for various other positive purposes.

According to the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office and collaborated by court documents, the building was owned by Christian Black, an area college student.

A local drug dealer then used the site along with Black to sell illegal drugs and alcohol without a permit.

In the summer of 2020, a confrontation at the location led to a shooting inside then followed by another shooting outside the building.

Ryan Lynum is currently serving five years in prison related to that shooting.

Zanesville Police took on the case against the establishment for operating an illegal liquor establishment and seized the contents of the bar.

In preparation for a Halloween party that same year, the drug dealer and Black began to fill Hoppy’s with new equipment in order to open again for patrons.

On October 30, 2020, local police served a warrant at the establishment, arresting Black and a bartender, discovering that – in addition to illegally selling beer using a ticker system – the proprietors were selling narcotics over-the-counter to customers.

During the execution of that search warrant, Black was found in possession of $13,710 and more than a pound of marijuana. He was charged with trafficking, a fifth-degree felony.

Black pleaded guilty to a prosecutor’s bill of information in June of 2021. As part of his plea deal, Black agreed to forfeit the building which according to the Muskingum County Auditor’s Office was worth roughly $32,000.

He was given community control, ordered to also forfeit the $13,969 in cash, which was split evenly between the Zanesville Police Department and the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office, and serve 50 hours of community service.

A Springfield XD 40 handgun was also ordered forfeited and destroyed, a gun he likely had to protect his criminal enterprise and illegal activity.

Later, a motion was filed with the court to have the building demolished instead of sold at auction.

Sidwell Materials donated equipment, labor and multiple haul-away bins to remove the one-story structure.

According to a press release by the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office, discussions were had with city officials about alternative uses for the location, but ‘it was determined that there was not a way to prevent the property from falling back into criminal operations.’

Once the building was destroyed, two signs were placed at the site reading “a drug property that once operated here has been destroyed as a result of the work of the Zanesville PD and Muskingum County Prosecutor Ron Welch’s Office. Special thanks to Sidwell Materials for demolishing and hauling away drug property.” Within a day both signs were vandalized.

Local activist, Kyle Johnson, along with many others criticized the signs, questioning why the building had to be demolished and why investments are never made by officials in the poorer parts of town.

“Prime example of their nature. Tearing down rather than building up,” wrote Johnson on a Facebook post. “The building is no good empty. It could be used as an arcade or community center … the list is endless. But God forbid that our tax dollars or the drug money they stole go into the south end of town.”

Johnson is organizing a community meeting on Saturday, May 28, at 10 a.m.

“The Hoppy’s building had been run as a criminal enterprise for more than 20 years. It was a location prized by the criminal element, which brought crime and fear to its neighbors. It was time for it to go,” wrote Muskingum County Prosecutor Ron Welch. “The hope that the property could be turned around was outweighed by the importance of permanently taking the facility away from its supporters, and delivering a win for the good people in the Putnam community.”