Some Q & A on downtown issues.

Here are some questions that I clumsily tried to field from a concerned citizen”
With summer in full force, our downtown is getting busy.  This is a great time of year to enjoy what the center of our city has to offer.  It does seem that some enjoy our downtown more than others.  The piles of vomit and obvious pools of urine along with litter associated with a night on the town are becoming all too common.  City Council has been eager to issue a number of licences to new bars in the downtown and by doing so, established a bar district.   As someone who works, shops and plays downtown, I have several concerns that you maybe able to help me understand:
After seeing fighting, public urination and extreme public drunkenness I am concerned that the police are not engaging the problem in a way that is most effective.  I have seen squad cars parked in front of Bilotti’s but the officers do not leave the vehicle.  In other cities with bar districts, it is not uncommon to see police on foot and/or bikes patrolling the sidewalks, parking areas and inside the establishments.  Not being intrusive or forceful, just there, face to face as a way of reminding folks that there are a few basic rules that should be followed.  Is there a plan for police presence to be increased in proportion to the amount of activity going on in the area, especially on weekend nights?
You are actually the 2nd person to comment on this to me this week.  I know there are some plain clothed officers that are down there as well.  I can’t speak to the specifics as to why the officers are staying in the squad, but I am forward this comment to the police department.
Are the police enforcing current laws regarding public urination, littering, public intoxication, underage drinking, smoking too close to building entrances and other minor crimes that are causing “quality of life” problems for the rest of us who use the downtown?  Can you share metrics for this type of enforcement? Are the existing laws effective?  Are new laws needed to deal with issues specific to our downtown district?
I know that one of the issues we have had is that our ordinances were not clear enough to allow for easy enforcement.  We recently changed some ordinances to make enforcement easier.  I believe that we are also considering forcing bars to stay open past last call as that has led to the public urination issues.  The police will typically cite these issues if they see them.  There is a downtown safe and clean task force that is making recommendations to us as well.

Does the Council have the power to limit business hours for the downtown bars?  Could liquor sales/consumption be suspended an hour early?  This could allow crowds to disperse in a more orderly way. With no late night public transit, and only a handful of cabs available, there are few choices for responsible folks who choose to take a safe ride home after a night out.

Yes we do have that power.  Liquor could be stopped early, but more likely we would ask bars to stay open an hour past last call.

If you have been in Kathy’s or Dooley’s late at night, it is clear that these establishments are filled well beyond posted occupancy limits. This creates a dangerous situation for the crowd in the case of a fire or a violent incident.  There are not enough exits for the number of customers inside and this creates a potential disaster.  What actions have the Fire Department taken to survey these establishments during peak occupancy hours?

I have done a few late night “research” projects.  I am not sure what the occupancy is, but I think Dooley’s is huge.  I will relay this comment to the Fire Marshall.  Those occupancy limits have to be respected for public safety reasons.
Does the City have a plan in place to mitigate the very public problems caused by a few rowdy patrons and a few businesses that are setting a bad example for a lot of folks who want to go out, and have a good time?
We are pushing the safe bars program very hard and our police are writing more and more disorderly citations.  If someone is trespassed from 1 safe bar the are from them all.
I have concerns that future downtown development will be limited due to the reputation that downtown is getting for being drunk and dangerous.  Thanks for listening to my concerns and following up on my questions.

Thanks for the note and your support [NAME REMOVED].  The future of Rochester is downtown, so we need to do it right.  Please keep me informed on what you see.

Michael

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