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I-TEAM: Drunk Driving License Plate Controversy

MENTOR, Ohio– Driving drunk is a very serious problem, and some feel a local bar is not taking the crime seriously.

In Ohio, multiple OVI offenders are required to put restrictive plates on their vehicle for a certain amount of time.

And some OVI offenders have decided to have their plates displayed at a Lake County bar when their sentence is up.

Pastor Ken Hopkins finds the display offensive. His son, Andy, along with another Hiram College student, Grace Chamberlain, were killed in a 2006 OVI crash. The driver of that vehicle had 11 prior OVIs.

*CLICK to see the number of repeat OVI offenders in your county*

“There is not a day that you don’t think about something about his life or his legacy,” Hopkins said.

And those yellow restrictive plates act like triggers. When Hopkins spots them, images of the mangled car pour into his mind.

He believes the plates belong on vehicles of multiple OVI offenders, not on the wall of an establishment where alcohol flows.

But that’s exactly where we found more than 15, displayed behind the Stadium Grill bar in Mentor.

“Yeah I don’t think it’s a joking matter, really disturbs someone who has had a loss to hear of something like that,” Hopkins said.

Julie Leggett, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, agrees. “I can’t believe they would do something like this,” Leggett told us. “Only because it becomes a wall of honor, nothing honorable about being a repeat OVI offender.”

And no one knows that better than Shari Rymer, owner of the Stadium Grill. Now a recovering alcoholic, Rymer has two prior OVIs. She says she takes drunk driving seriously and the bar even hosts AA meetings.

Her plate leads the display.

“It all started with the previous owner, and we have added more,” Rymer said.

She understands others may not agree with her choice to hang the plates. “It’s freedom of speech and it’s my bar,” Rymer said. “I can decorate any way I want to. Who’s to say I can’t have them up?”

Rymer tells me, when she looks at the plates it reminds her not to drink and drive and she hopes that is the message it sends to patrons. “I can’t repeat it enough; it’s not about being disrespectful. It’s not,” Rymer said.

Still many who have lost someone in an OVI crash would like the plates to come down.
“I think it would go a long way towards helping some families heal to take that down and respect the loved ones we lost,” Hopkins said.