Bar owners express solidarity over bar fights

January 31, 2012 6:20:33 PM PST
The city of Walnut Creek has a problem: How to balance a bustling nightlife scene that's good for business with a growing crime and violence problem that's not.

After a weekend of drunken street fights, officials may crack down on bars and restaurant and that is putting night spots on the defensive. Locust Street was the scene of three different incidents early Sunday. By next weekend, there will be more police officers there and on other streets as well. Beyond that, the city is looking at enacting new laws to help curb the violence around closing time.

Bar and restaurant owners in Walnut Creek held an early morning meeting Tuesday, one day after police and city leaders announced they may impose new regulations on their late night establishments.

"The new regulations that we're looking at will allow us to further reduce hours but only on a case-by-case basis," City Manager Ken Nordhoff said.

However, bar owners say they want a chance to reign in unruly customers, mostly on their own.

"Monitor ourselves, and monitor our crowds, and who's coming into our places with the idea of working with the city council and the police to get things on the right path," said Patsy Wilkinson at Crogan's bar.

Fights have become increasingly common in Walnut Creek. Last weekend, three separate fights along Locust Street led to nine arrests and several injuries, including to police officers.

"The solution is us working together, preventing this violence, keeping people that are intoxicated off our streets, and not making them intoxicated to the point where they're going to do stupid things to begin with," said Police Chief Joel Bryden.

In his state of the city address, Mayor Bob Simmons highlighted the drop in crime in recent years, but he says the spike in problems associated with the bar scene must stop, and that city staff is working on it. "To proceed aggressively, to prepare an ordinance that would allow us to regulate the hours of all the establishments in the city that service alcohol," he said.

Walnut Creek city council member Kristina Lawson told ABC7, "I think it's absolutely essential that we have ordinances in place that give us the tools, where necessary, to act."

Edward Reel is the general manager of Crogan's Sports Bar. He sees no problem with the city taking a closer look at trouble spots. "I don't know if taking away their hours is the right answer, but to definitely sit back and re-evaluate who's running the business and what's going on," he said.

The city council hopes to have a draft ordinance before them in the coming weeks. In the meantime, with a stronger police presence, they are hoping for no more serious incidents.