Every weekend night, as the parties are winding down and the bars are closing, hunger strikes — and like a sexiled roommate needs a place to sleep, a hungry partier needs a place to eat.
But as revelers make their way to the handful of eateries still open in downtown New Haven, the mix of alcohol and large crowds can also lead to disturbances. Despite two altercations at local restaurants over the last two weekends, business owners, police and students said they are not worried about such fights becoming an increasing trend. Late-night business owners said the benefits of after-hours patronage tend to outweigh the annoyances of dealing with drunken customers.
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Yale Police Department Sgt. Steven Woznyk said there has been a slight, but clear, increase in the number of calls the YPD receives about disturbances by college-aged people on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, especially as bars close.
“We would certainly get the majority of the calls at first when the bars start to let out,” he said. “We often get calls for the loud and disturbing crowds on streets, [but] once people seem to get where they are going … the calls slow down.”
These calls generally consist of requests for medical attention or assistance in quelling disturbances, Woznyk said. Though the YPD does sometimes need to take enforcement action, he said, there is no cause to worry about an upward trend in disturbances.
He said the recent fights at A-One Pizza two weeks ago or at Yorkside Pizza and Restaurant last weekend are isolated incidents. Student safety, he said, continues to be a priority as it has always been.
“We always maintain that student safety is a priority,” Woznyk said. “We’re there to resolve problems [and] make sure people are safe, but also sometimes enforcement action needs to be done.”
Enforcement action was needed two weeks ago when a fight broke out in A-One Pizza involving approximately six customers who eventually chased an A-One employee outside and attacked him.
Then, last weekend, a handful of patrons at Yorkside became involved in a shoving match that developed into a short fight involving as many as 20 people. Police arrived as the fight neared the door and then dispersed those involved.
Despite reports of some sort of tear gas being used to quell the disturbance, some students standing directly next to the fight said they did not notice anything. Yorkside co-owner George Koutroumanis said police told him no chemical was used. The New Haven Police Department and YPD could not confirm whether or not a substance was used, though Woznyk said officers do carry 10 percent Oleoresin Capsicum pepper spray.
Koutroumanis said though the late-night shift can be tough, especially on weekends, the restaurant stays open because it satisfies a clear need. He said the restaurant is convenient for both students studying at the library late at night and people partying on the weekends.
But Koutroumanis acknowledged that working late on weekends can be especially stressful, as drunken crowds can become very loud and sometimes difficult to deal with.
“At night [when] people are out drinking, sometimes people get louder than they should or people get out of hand,” he said. “And you’re tired, so it can try your patience.”
Despite sometimes belligerent customers, Koutroumanis said, the restaurant has not suffered from any major late-night problems in its almost 35 years of operation. Last weekend’s fight was unfortunate, he said, but was a short-lived and relatively minor isolated incident.
“It’s a shame that college-educated people have to act like that,” he said. “There’s no real reason for it.”
Scott Healy ’97, executive director of the Town Green Special Services District, said despite the annoyances of drunk patrons and the problems of hiring staff willing to work late hours, it makes economic sense for local establishments to stay open late into the night.
“Alcohol is a lubricant for many things and one thing is for your wallet,” he said. “There’s a certain lack of retail activity that occurs after 6:00 or 7:00 in our districts. It seems appropriate for a college town to have more late night establishments even for students up late studying.”
The Yorkside incident drew attention, he said, because it was an anomaly in the area. But he said that the overcrowding of hungry partyers may have contributed to the incident.
Gourmet Heaven manager Mohamed Masaud said his store has not had any major problems inside the store in the last three years.
“Before we had to call the cops and call the police so I guess people decided they didn’t want to cause problems, so they would come in peace,” he said. “Where else are they going to go after Toad’s or when they’re studying late at night?”