Archive for Saturday, February 16, 2008

Temporary relief

One problem is solved, at least for now, but the safety of downtown Lawrence needs to remain on the city’s agenda.

February 16, 2008


It's not unreasonable for local government and law enforcement officials to breathe a sigh of relief this week when Dennis Steffes announced he would not reopen the troublesome Last Call club at 729 N.H.

As Mayor Sue Hack said, "We don't have to worry about something similar (to last Sunday's shooting incident) happening at that location next weekend, and that is a relief."

However, as Hack and other city officials know, the closing of Last Call does not solve all of downtown Lawrence's current safety issues or prevent similar problems in the future. Too many Lawrence residents and visitors from out of town are uncomfortable with the current atmosphere downtown. A lack of parking often is cited, but equally troublesome for many are the people who roam the sidewalks asking for money or large unruly crowds that can seem threatening to some visitors.

As has been noted many times, downtown Lawrence has at least two, probably three, distinct personalities depending on the time of day. In the daytime hours, shoppers and business people dominate the streets. The evening is more about entertainment, movies and restaurants. Later in the evening and into the early-morning hours, a darker side of downtown surfaces. Even though recent incidents of violence have occurred in the early-morning hours when most residents are at home in bed, they have a lingering impact on the overall ambiance downtown.

Concern, of course, is heightened by new residential development downtown. It has been noted, often sarcastically, that Last Call likely would not have become a big issue if it hadn't been located directly across the street from the upscale Hobbs Taylor Lofts. There probably is some truth to that statement, and that's fine. Additional residential development could be a key to revitalizing downtown, but no one wants to live in a neighborhood where they are awakened by gunfire in the wee hours of the morning. If concerns for the residents and owners of Hobbs Taylor Lofts helped draw attention to Last Call, great.

Although Last Call apparently now is out of the picture, however, city and law enforcement officials can't allow their attention to this issue to drop. It wasn't that long ago that someone was shot and killed outside the Granada at 1020 Mass., and officials need to figure out a way to prevent other establishments from creating new havoc downtown. And at the same time, they must be careful not to simply push problem establishments to other parts of the city or county.

Perhaps vigorous enforcement of current nuisance laws will get the job done. If legislative action or new city ordinances are needed, however, officials should pursue all reasonable steps to secure downtown. Without a basic level of safety in the area, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain downtown as an active business, entertainment and residential center.


Richard Heckler 10 years, 3 months ago

*Commissioners have been asked in a variety of venues if before substantial measures are taken would the situation wait until a serious shooting occurred? Guess taxpaying citizens have their answer. Isn't this how the word irresponsible is defined?

  • Dennis Steffes is another way to define irresponsible.

  • Just because patrons are irresponsible does that mean that business owners and local government should be likewise?

*The cost of having police officers called in to quell a disturbance should not be billed to the taxpayers.

*Taking action against property owners is acceptable in this case due to long history.

  • Should the City Commission also be reprimanded for dragging its' feet?

*Has any commissioner interfered with law enforcement? I am simply amazed at how long this has been allowed to continue.

*Will the entertainment license ordinance have teeth in it?

  • An ordinance without substantial "teeth" will not be enforced.

*Why include those establishments who monitor "their" crowds closely and ask some not to return? It is my contention these establishments do exist.

  • How many more drinking establishments can Lawrence absorb? Why add more and further stress out LPD demand?

  • As we talk badly of Last Call patrons are the frat boys truly any different? No doubt some women around campus have some thoughts.

Paul R Getto 10 years, 3 months ago

The Last Call is a symptom of a disease. There are toxic parts of our culture that will pop up elsewhere. In a sense, it's the irony of Elvis' ultimate revenge. He was the crossover from black to white in the 1950's, which terrified adults. Now, white frat boys imitate California prison gangs in their music, speech and dress. Due to economics, the only way to make money is on food and (mainly) booze. Lawrence's downtown will probably look more like Aggieville and Westport than a series of quaint shops selling things no one really needs.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 3 months ago

The city commission is considering reducing the percentage number for food sales in relation to bars. As I remember this matter the 70% food sales was a tool to keep the number of full blown bars at a mininmum. Citizen taxpayers were concerned at that point in time about Lawrence being reduced to a bar scene. That simply was not then nor is it now desirable.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 3 months ago

More residential in the downtown area would be good and healthy economically. More bars on the other hand are not necessary. Taxpayers cannot afford the ever ballooning LPD budget as it is.

Notice the Crossroads,17th & Summit area and downtown KCMO are being restored which includes a ton of warehouse like structures being converted to new residential. I see Bo Harris is restoring the Midtown Theatre....very cool.

"Perhaps vigorous enforcement of current nuisance laws will get the job done. If legislative action or new city ordinances are needed, however, officials should pursue all reasonable steps to secure downtown."

If current laws are not applicable or cannot be amended to meet the demand then it is my suggestion that City Manager Dave Corliss take the time Tuesday evening and explain why each likely ordinance can or cannot be amended. Obviously myself and the rest of the public are not clear.

The LJW should also print the above request/explantion vertbatim so as not to confuse interested citizens. The "Entertainment License" should also be presented also be presented as written for reasons of clarity.

rob_g 10 years, 3 months ago

Good Job City Commission! Yall musta really put the scare into Dennis, forcing him into submission. But don't think we can stop there. We still got undesirables at the Replay, and Granada. Whaddaya think? Who should we go for next? Let's get that dang Replay outta downtown too. I hear there's some drug activity up in there. Better get the LPD to stake it out. (and do nothing about it)

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