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The Journal Gazette

  • Sports and Spirits at the corner of Wayne Street and Anthony Boulevard will be torn down Monday. (File photo)

Thursday, July 13, 2017 1:00 am

'Hellhole' bar to be peaceful green spot

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

Back in 1912 – that's 105 years ago – a company called Deister Machine opened on North Anthony Boulevard, just a little bit north of East Wayne Street.

A little bit before the company celebrated its first 100 years, though, the business got what could be called an unruly neighbor, going by the name Sports & Spirits.

For more than a decade, unhappy things happened there. The bar was robbed, more than once, there were shootings in the parking lot and thefts from cars.

Inside, police – staging raids – found stolen guns and people using drugs.

Bullets believed to have been fired from the parking lot even pierced the walls of dormitory rooms at Indiana Tech, about a block away.

One Christmas morning, an unhappy patron opened fire at the bar, critically injuring one man.

Police were being called to the establishment nearly 70 times a year, enough that in 2014 the local Alcoholic Beverage Commission decided to refuse to renew the bar's liquor license.

That didn't close the bar, though. It stayed in business.

At one point, the owners of Deister Machine inquired about buying the property. Nothing formal, just one of those “if you ever consider selling the property” type things. Nothing ever came of it.

Then came September 2016. Somebody walked into the bar and opened fire, killing three people and injuring others. The bar closed and never reopened.

Now, the bar is going to disappear once and for all.

Deister Machine has closed on the property, and Monday morning the company, which employs 270 people in four different campuses in the neighborhood, will hold a memorial service outside the bar.

They've invited some area pastors to the ceremony, which will be informal. They'll say a few prayers, remember the founder of Deister, Emil Deister, and remember the three men who lost their lives a little less than a year ago.

Then, the new owners will let a contractor cut loose and level the old bar, getting rid of a “hellhole,” as one company official put it.

The plan is to just seed the corner lot. Eventually a little memorial will be placed there.

It won't be a park, just a bit of green space, a little corner of peace, as Larry Owen, facilities manager for Deister, put it.

It's just Deister Machine's way of taking care of the neighborhood where it's been in business longer than anyone alive can remember.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.