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Ground Zero hangs on to its liquor license

Ground Zero can keep its liquor license, the Medford City Council decided Thursday.

But the downtown nightclub better keep a handle on its spirited crowd.

Medford police say they'll be forced to consider closing Ground Zero if the popular club violates the city's nuisance ordinance three times in a 30-day period.

"Our goal is not to put anybody out of business," said Deputy Chief Randy Schoen. "We just want to solve the problem."

The issue began last year, police say, when officers were called to Ground Zero 72 times in a six-month period.

Club owner Ken Miller implemented a plan in February to reduce criminal activity at the club and in the immediate area. But police, suspecting nuisance ordinance violations, planned to ask the council to deny the club's application to renew its license to serve alcohol.

Police learned, however, that the club is complying with the nuisance ordinance. There have been no more than two nuisance calls each month since March, Schoen said.

"There's room for improvement, but we're pleased with the effort Mr. Miller and Ground Zero have made," Schoen added.

Miller declined to comment.

At a public hearing Thursday, Schoen asked the council to forward to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission a "favorable" recommendation on Ground Zero's license renewal.

The council endorsed the application after learning that Ground Zero owner Miller has increased security and taken other steps to manage intoxicated club-goers, including extended food service hours.

Brian Schmitz, OLCC regional manager, said the measures have made a difference.

Police reports for June and July show that none of the individuals arrested for drunk driving in Medford purchased alcohol at Ground Zero, Schmitz said.

Since January, only 13 individuals arrested for driving under the influence said they had been drinking at the club.

In 2000, 34 drunk driving arrests were connected to Ground Zero.

Reach reporter Jessica Smith at 776-4481, or e-mail