I-TEAM: Drunk Driving License Plate Controversy

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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.


  • Gl

    It goes both ways! I mean if you see those plates on the wall I hope it would make you want to second guess about drinking and driving. I understand the people who dislike them. They see it more as the bar honors the ovi offenders. But I hope that the people in the bar relizes they not only put themselfs at risk, but others also. So hopefully they use it for good and not drink and drive.

  • Kevin B,

    Don’t like a Bar’s decorations ? Don’t go there or maybe The partons should goto Hopkin’s church and complain theres too many religious related items on his walls and it offends sinners.

    • Sharon Ulman

      This man doesn’t have to “look” for something to cry about-he lost his son to a man who had 11 PREVIOUS DUIs! I think losing a child is something to cry about.

  • bill ferritto

    Lois you said it kills, has your bible not killed? If it offends you then pluck they eye out,did you ever read that?

  • samantha gardner

    Those plates are a great thing. I am a patron of this bar and know almost all of the staff and the owner. I always look at those plates , it makes me not drink nearly as much If im driving when I go there to drink. I understand everyone is entitled to their opinion but if you dont like the plates dont go to that bar… there are plenty of other boring bars around that you could go to…

  • Kevin

    no offense to the pastor, sorry for your loss. But you shouldn’t be mad at the bar, you should be mad at the law makers and the court for letting the person continuously drive with more that 1 OVI offense.
    You should loose your license for a minimum of 1 year if you get caught drinking and driving, its not soo hard to call for a ride or just wait until you get home for a drink..

  • faye hall

    If you want to know what I think, here you go…..I have been seeing this story on numerous news stations several times a day for nearly a week. This is nothing but publicity for this establishment. Don’t like it? Don’t go there, but please let this story rest.

  • Sharon Ulman

    I want to know if you are mocking how this grieving father feels because he did his interview in a church? No one is judging anybody or calling people drunks, etc. He’s just expressing his opinion and how he feels about the OVI plate display. Before anyone jumps on it, you are entitled to your opinion as well.

  • David Bunsey

    Having already lowered the blood alcohol content from 0.1 to 0.08 more people are unjustly convicted of OVI. Only those involved in accidents should be convicted and severely punished.

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