I thought I might be on my way to a pretty good meeting tonight. Kevin Hayhurst, co-owner of Brian’s Ivy Hall, a place that has come up a lot in the discussion about issues downtown, tried to host a meeting tonight between residents and bar owners.
Here’s what he said in his invitation.
Kevin and co-owner Eric Finn; Nick Petrakos, from the Blue Shamrock; the co-owners of the Village Smokehouse, and the owner of the Amae Asian Fusion Restaurant all came to the meeting. So did one Lowell resident from South Lowell. So did Lowell attorney Michael Zaim.
No one else did.
The guy from South Lowell left pretty quickly since the meeting was clearly going nowhere.
Hayhurst, Petrakos and the guys from the Smokehouse have been mainstays at the meetings between bar owners and residents that Police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee has held quarterly over the course of the last two or three years. They’ve held discussions with residents before, listened to complaints, and responded, so I thought this discussion might be productive.
Residents, bar owners and Lavallee haven’t met since last Summer, though, and they certainly didn’t meet tonight. The Lowell Downtown Neighborhood Association even rebroadcast the invitation via the association’s Facebook page, but not a single downtown resident came.
I did get to ask Hayhurst for some of his ideas for curbing violence and disorder.
1. This first came up during discussions held between Hayhurst, other bar owners, and residents. It is for bar owners to start maintaining a sort of “black list” of people who cause trouble downtown.
When this idea came up at a meeting between residents and bar owners this Summer, Lavallee questioned whether it would be legal and suggested looking into the matter and how it could be achieved in a legal manner.
I hadn’t heard anything about it since, but last night Hayhurst said bar owners have been talking amongst themselves and may try to organize this on their own. If people get thrown out of bars or arrested for disorder offenses, the bar owners could seek no trespassing orders that would prevent these people from entering any downtown bars participating in the program.
The idea would be to keep the trouble makers from coming downtown to drink.
2. Hayhurst thinks one of the issues that makes crowds more aggressive at the end of the night is the way they’re pushed out of bars. Everyone has to be out of the bar at 2 a.m., which means if last call is at 1:45, everyone is rushed out the door at the last minute.
See above for an example of people being dispersed from a bar at the end of the night.
Hayhurst thinks it might solve a lot of problems to just have last call, shut off all the music, stop all entertainment, and let people wander out of the bar at their own pace, instead of being pushed out.
“I think it would make for a less aggressive crowd,” he said.
3. Hayhurst also agrees with a suggestion made by Lowell Downtown Neighborhood Association president Kathleen Marcin several months ago, that lighting be improved around Lee Street, Paige Street and John Street, where there have been several violent incidents.
I haven’t spoken to anyone who disagrees with this suggestion, and City Manager Lynch told me tonight that the city is looking to work with private property owners in that area to implement the suggestion, since most of the lights are on private property. He said the city is also looking to help by adding more lights.