City wants bar owners to pay for extra police presence

Two men have been murdered in or near New Haven’s downtown nightclubs in the last two years, and now City Hall wants to create a police detail to patrol the city’s downtown nightlife scene.

The proposed police detail, announced this week by Mayor John DeStefano Jr., is one way in which New Haven is trying to maintain order outside downtown clubs and bars, and would consist of about 10 officers and one sergeant. It is expected to cost $500,000, for which City Hall anticipates club and bar owners will pay $300,000, said New Haven Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts ’01.

Smuts said the bar detail is a common-sense move that numerous other states and cities have implemented.

“It’s a pretty normal concept,” Smuts said. “We’re trying to make sure the downtown area is civil and safe.”

Over the summer, the city’s Board of Aldermen passed two ordinances that, for different reasons, allow the police to require bars and clubs to hire extra police officers.

Venues that host special events on a regular basis will be charged higher rates, Smuts said, and larger establishments will pay more than smaller ones.

But not all bar and club owners are pleased with the city’s plan.

Dieter von Rabenstein, owner of the Chapel Street bar Richter’s, said he is opposed to the idea of paying for the detail.

“If the police department doesn’t have enough people on the street, put [more officers] on the street,” he said. Von Rabenstein said he already pays for police in his tax dollars and that whether or not the NHPD has enough officers on the street is not his problem.

Two city bar and club owners said they already pay for extra city police to keep order at their establishments.

Brian Phelps, owner of Toad’s Place, said he has no problems with the idea of a bar detail since he already pays for extra police officers on a regular basis (as many as three officers on busy Saturday nights).

“Hiring one cop is like hiring five security guys,” he said.

Like Phelps, Frank Patrick, manager of Crown Street club and pizzeria BAR, said he pays for a police officer to be on duty at BAR on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“Any time there is a problem or dispute, we just let the officer handle it,” he said.

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