Operation Nightlife, the New Haven Police Department initiative that resulted in the Oct. 2 raid on Elevate, is shifting its target and impacting another facet of Yale nightlife.
The initiative is shifting focus from police raids on bars and clubs such as Elevate toward random inspections of stores that sell alcohol, said Lt. Rebecca Sweeney, the NHPD downtown district manager. In the past week, College Wine and another local liquor store have had their liquor licenses suspended. Four out of five Yale students under the age of 21 said the crackdown will alter the way they go out.
“We are wrapping up our inspection of bars,” Sweeney said. “And now we’re moving on to package stores.”
Despite the shift in focus, the new police initiative is still under the larger umbrella of Operation Nightlife, which was created to curb downtown violence, said Sweeney. She added that the NHPD will focus on checking for sales to minors, but the random inspections will cover other facets of the law, much like they did for clubs.
Officers will work with the fire marshal to check for building code violations, Sweeney said. This mirrors the actions of NHPD officers during the first phase of Operation Nightlife when, as in the Oct. 2 raid on Elevate, they investigated clubs primarily for underage drinking but also checked occupancy levels.
Operation Nightlife was created in late September by Mayor John DeStefano Jr. in response to a rash of violence downtown in September that included assailants shooting at officers, DeStefano said in an October interview.
As part of this initiative, NHPD officers — some wearing SWAT gear — raided the Morse-Stiles Screw at the Elevate nightclub on Crown Street late Oct. 2. As a result of this raid, five students were arrested, and one was stunned with a Taser and required hospitalization. Connecticut Liquor Control Commission agents were present at the raid.
In the past week, the commission has suspended the liquor licenses of College Wine on Church Street and Westville Quality Market in Westville. According to the commission’s website, College Wine was caught selling alcohol to a minor and will suffer a one-day suspension on Dec. 6. Westville Quality Market’s license was suspended Monday through Wednesday for four violations: selling to a minor, “permit not recorded,” “permit to be framed and hung,” and “permit to be posted.”
City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga could not be reached for comment about whether these incidents were directly related to the Operation Nightlife tactical shift.
Jesse Hassinger ’11, who shopped at College Wine on Monday, said he was surprised that the store was cited for selling to a minor because his identification is always inspected whenever he goes there. He added that Broadway Liquors, the site of a major police inspection last year, is even stricter about checking IDs.
“I’ve gone elsewhere and not been carded,” he said, adding that he didn’t believe the police crackdown on liquor stores would affect his shopping habits.
According to the Liquor Control Commission, New Haven is allowed to have 49 licensed package stores based on its 2000 census tally.