Nathan Cohen admits he’s experienced far fewer trespassers onto his property adjacent to The GOAT tavern in Midtown since the establishment agreed to a strict set of commitments in December 2020 to be allowed to remain open, but he continues to deal with the effects of his family’s foundation office and weekend home being next to a bar, he said.
His security cameras still capture an occasional trespasser on the property on 2nd St. SW, and so have the police and security team. At least one person has been found guilty of trespassing by a Hamilton County judge stemming from an incident in late 2020, and Cohen said he’s been subpoenaed to testify in at least two other cases. The Carmel Police Dept. declined to release data on how many trespassing charges have been filed against The GOAT patrons without an official public records request, although a spokesperson said “no significant issues” have been reported in recent weeks.
In addition to the annoyance of having a security vehicle — sometimes with lights flashing — frequently parked in or near his driveway, Cohen said he’s having to carve out time to head to the county courthouse in Noblesville to testify against the alleged trespassers. And with warmer weather on the way, he’s expecting the number of violations to increase.
“We’ve been dealing with the problem for eight months,” Cohen said. “It’s getting old.”
Kevin Paul, owner of The GOAT, said he had not been made aware of any trespassing incidents since January and that if tavern customers were to be caught trespassing, they would not be welcome back.
“If it was a patron or somebody that was in our place, we have a pretty strict rule where we’ll ban them from our establishment if they’re caught loitering or hanging out in neighborhood areas during our times of operation,” he said, adding that no one has been banned so far.
For several months after The GOAT — which stands for Greatest of All Taverns — opened in the summer of 2020, Cohen’s security cameras frequently caught tavern patrons urinating, vomiting or worse in his yard. The GOAT replaced Bub’s Cafe, a breakfast and lunch restaurant that had received a variance to permit it to operate in a residentially zoned area between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., but when the city allowed The GOAT to open, it overlooked the variance tied to the land.
So, with complaints pouring in from the Cohens and other neighbors, the city in December 2020 ordered The GOAT to close at 2 p.m. daily unless it agreed to a list of commitments, such as closing by midnight, hiring private security to prevent trespassing on nearby properties and capping occupancy at 80 people. Paul agreed to the commitments and began preparing variance requests as a long-term solution to the problem.
In February the BZA tabled a vote on the variance requests to give The GOAT more time to work with Carmel’s Dept. of Community Services to address some of the issues, and in March the matter was tabled again. The BZA is set to discuss the requests again at its April 26 meeting.
Part of the BZA discussion is likely to include a proposed new list of commitments. Some are identical to the first set, but changes include allowing The GOAT to stay open half an hour later Friday and Saturday nights and allowing the outdoor area — currently off limits — to be open until 10 p.m.
Commitments struck from the original list are a requirement to end food and beverage service an hour before closing, a prohibition of live music and a requirement for The GOAT operator to clean up trash in a three-block area after closing. Now, it would be responsible only for cleaning “the immediate surrounding area.”
The list of commitments also states that The GOAT will be shut down if it violates a commitment and doesn’t remedy it within 24 hours. It states that if the occupancy limit is exceeded on more than one occasion The GOAT will be required to close immediately. It also states that The GOAT must pay $5,000 for each violation.
Paul said that he has not yet agreed to the new commitment list. He said he hasn’t recently heard from City of Carmel or BZA officials.
“I appreciate that they’re expanding our opportunity to allow our employees to generate an income and allow the business to make more money and loosen some draconian rules,” he said. “Right now, I’m running a business based on what the city and the neighbor think I should do, as opposed to free market capitalism and doing what’s right, so I’ve got to review those. I suspect there may or may not be some level of negotiation on what the commitments are. I’ve got to understand the purpose behind them more importantly than what the commitment is. I want to accomplish the goal, not just restrict the operation of business.”
Mike Hollibaugh, Carmel’s director of the Dept. of Community Services, said his department and CPD monitor The GOAT through inspections, patrols and occasional use of nearby security cameras owned by the city. He said the city received complaints about incidents that occurred in January but that he is not aware of other complaints since then.
He also said the city is not aware of the existing commitments being violated.
“We believe the owner of The GOAT understands the seriousness of the situation and is taking the commitments seriously,” Hollibaugh said.