Chat about downtown bar concerns with Nick Carroll
January 3, 2007
This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.
Nick Carroll, owner of Replay Lounge and Jackpot Music Hall, will talk about the City Commission's discussions on improving downtown security.
Hello. This is Cody Howard, I'll be moderating the chat today with Nick Carroll.
The city of Lawrence is discussing ways of increasing security in downtown Lawrence in light of several violent incidents in the area in the past year.
What are your thoughts on the current atmosphere downtown?
I think downtown there's different scenes and for the most part everything is safe, but there's a couple areas a little more areas more dangerous than others. Those are the areas that the city is most concerned about.
The city is discussing several different ideas to improve security, including more direct control of licensing for downtown establishments. What do you think of those discussions?
Back in August, the city brought up two proposed solutions. The first was staggered closing times for downtown bars. The second was an entertainment license for bars over a certain occupancy. At that August meeting, several bar owners were present and our proposed solutions were that the city handle problematic bars on a one-on-one basis and, if necessary, take the steps to pull their occupancy license. The second solution we came up with was increasing police presence at closing time, especially in areas with a history of violence.
As a venue owner, the first two solutions proposed by the city are very troubling. The problem with staggered closing hours is that the venue would lose over 40 percent of its sales because the most concentrated hours for sales are from midnight to 1:30 a.m.
The businesses that were allowed to be open the latest would survive -- and those that had to close earlier would be forced out of business. It creates an unfair business environment.
The problem with the proposed entertainment license is that it gives the City Manager too much discretion on shutting down a business. For example, if somebody was injured outside a business and it was not related to a business, with this ordinance, the City Manager could decide that this business is problematic and the business' future would be in jeopardy. There's a similar ordinance in Olathe and it completely destroyed their live music and cultural scene. In 2006, Olathe's two venues only hosted approximately 60 shows (cover bands). On the other, Lawrence hosted 1885 live music events with over 4700 bands.
Nick, your bars have perhaps the least amount of security downtown, but also the least amount of trouble. Do you think thats a coincidence, or are they related?
We have three door people on weekend nights, so we do have a security presence. One of the most beneficial things we put in place is that we have zero tolerance for violence. If someone is in a fight, both parties -- guilty and innocent -- are banned from the premesis for six months. Another reason we may have less trouble is that our customers are interested in music and watching the entertainment. Patrons in other places are there strictly people watch.
We're getting several questions specifically about Last Call in the 700 block of New Hampshire, where there have been numerous arrests and other incidents involving guns inside and outside the bar in the past year. What do you think constitutes a problematic bar?
Problematic bars are really easy to identify because of the trail of violence. If the police are called more than a few times a month and patrons are being sent to the hospital then the business is problematic. I don't know a lot about the Last Call. I've heard that it is a well run venue, and that they take necessary security procautions on the inside of the business. I've also read the police have broken up many fights in the parking lot next to the bar.
We have time for one more question today.
I am sorry, I hit 'submit' before I was actually done typing my question a moment ago.
Are you concerned that a perception of danger could affect the downtown scene as far as who is willing to frequent bars or attend shows? I have heard that the more trouble is reported downtown, the fewer 25+ patrons will bother going there. I don't know if that is true, but I would think that keeping a variety of people downtown in the evening would be a very positive thing.
That's all the time we have today. Our thanks to Nick for joining us.
I've been discouraged with the turnout of 25+ patrons. Not only at my bars but shows I've attended at Granada and the Bottleneck. In Austin Texas or Kansas City I never feel old at shows (I'm 38), but in Lawrence I feel like Old Man Carroll. I don't know if there is a lack of interest in music for the 25+ or if they are hesitant to go downtown. Believe it or not I really noticed a decline in the older folks after the smoking ban. I think this may be due to the loss of KC and Topeka music fans. If this is the case we should get these patrons back when their towns institute a smoking ban.
Thanks for having me. Support live music (especially in Downtown Lawrence)!