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Rockin’ Cigar Bar in Cincy District to reopen after deal reached with county on public nuisance case

UPDATE, Dec. 7: The recently shuttered Rockin' Cigar Bar and Grill in the Cincinnati Entertainment District will be allowed to reopen after brokering a deal with the El Paso County Attorney's Office - which had alleged the establishment was a haven for crime, according to a court settlement documents filed Tuesday.

In allowing the troubled bar to reopen, the county imposed a number of requirements on RCBG that owner Frank Ricci agreed to. Those include:

  • Hiring licensed security guards that will work on Friday and Saturday nights
  • Keep all security camera footage for review by police
  • Install a decibel reader to ensure compliance with city noise limits
  • Require all bartenders to complete certification classes with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
  • Must immediately report any observed illegal drug activity to police, terminate any workers involved
  • Permanently ban any bar patrons involved in assaults or drug activity
  • Allow Fort Bliss officials inside the bar to enforce the blacklisting of soldiers from it
  • Employees must keep count of patrons to ensure occupant level isn't exceeded
  • Not allow bar patrons to wear any gang insignia
  • Require employees to check IDs for all customers before serving alcohol
  • Must comply with city's no smoking rules inside the bar
  • RCBG posts a $5,000 bond that is forfeited if agreement is violated

While Ricci agreed to the settlement in order to reopen RCBG, he maintained to ABC-7 on Tuesday that he still believed his bar was unfairly targeted for closure by county officials. Prior to reaching the settlement, the county had been seeking permanent closure of the business by having ti declared a public nuisance.

Below is a complete copy of the agreement filed with Judge Alyssa Perez in 210th District Court.

ORIGINAL REPORT, Nov. 24: EL PASO, Texas -- Rockin' Cigar Bar and Grill in the Cincinnati Entertainment District was shuttered Wednesday by court order as the El Paso County Attorney's Office, on behalf of the state of Texas, seeks to have it declared a public nuisance.

In court documents that were served on owner Frank Ricci around noon, it alleges that his bar is a haven for drug deals, assaults, underage drinking, and outlaw biker gangs - among other offenses.

"Local, State and Federal law enforcement has brought the habitual criminal conduct and other violations that occurs at RCBG to the attention of the Defendants, but no action by the Defendants to stop the activity at RCBG has been observed. The Defendants have shown a resistance to assist law enforcement and to violate the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Code habitually," County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal said in her court filing.

She added, "RCBG is a place where persons habitually go for the purpose of engaging in crimes."

A temporary restraining order shutting down the bar was signed Wednesday by Judge Alyssa Perez, who set a Dec. 8 hearing in 210th District Court on the government's petition to permanently close it.

Ricci told ABC-7 that he planned to bring his own civil lawsuit against the county - and called the effort to shut his business down a "politically-motivated attack" because he was a supporter of former President Donald Trump. He also said he thinks his business was targeted because he has "people of color" as patrons on the weekend.

Ricci maintained that the Cincy District overall has problems, but he said other bar owners - and even the police - bear as much responsibility as he does.

Keith Pannell, a board member of the Kern Place Neighborhood Association, told ABC-7 that there are too many bars packed into the Cincy area. Given the allegations of drug use and other violations at Rockin' Cigar Bar, Pannell said it appeared "they've had their comeuppance."

Rockin' Cigar Bar has made headlines for a number of high-profile incidents in the Cincy District over the past year. Among those was a stabbing attack in February that left a man in critical condition. RCBG also ran afoul of state alcohol regulators during the pandemic, having their liquor license pulled at one point due to violations.

Perhaps most notable, which was also cited in the county attorney's court filing, is the fact that RCBG is among eight troubled El Paso businesses blacklisted by the U.S. Army - meaning Fort Bliss troops aren't allowed to patronize those establishments.

Below are the county's court filing along with the judge's closure order for viewing.

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