Archive for Saturday, May 12, 2012

Police calls to bars draw official scrutiny

Owners say numbers don’t tell whole story

May 12, 2012


The number of police calls at a handful of Lawrence drinking establishments in a recent 15-month period has drawn the city’s attention.

Lawrence police and city attorneys have met with or plan to have conversations with owners of the five establishments with the highest number of calls — Abe and Jake’s Landing at 163; The Oread, which includes The Cave nightclub, 122; Tonic, 99; The Hawk, 93; and Cadillac Ranch, 91 — from January 2011 to April 1 this year.

“It’s a serious issue. It’s serious for the patrons, serious for the employees and serious for the police officers that are called to respond to those situations,” City Manager David Corliss said. “We want to monitor it and respond accordingly. What comes of those meetings is the owner and operators indicate they have received the message and they’re going to work to try and respond. I’ve been pleased with the meetings and contacts to date. We’re going to continue to monitor it.”

Abe and Jake’s owner Mike Elwell said Wednesday in the last six weeks he changed the venue, 8 E. Sixth St., to host only private events. For about two years, it had been open on Thursday nights to anyone 18 and older with a Kansas University ID. Elwell said a majority of the police calls were for alcohol violations on the property, and he said a significant number of the problems occurred in the parking lot, including at least one large disturbance, adjacent to the property.

“There wasn’t any demand that we stop doing Thursday night or anything like that,” he said. “You could sense that we couldn’t monitor that parking lot.”

Owners and managers of some establishments say they welcome the conversations to try to reduce the numbers, but they also contend the overall numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“To me, they need to carefully weigh what these calls are to have a good understanding of why the calls were made,” said Nancy Longhurst, general manager of The Oread, a hotel and development at 1200 Oread Ave. that includes The Cave, a nightclub on the lower levels. “The reflection in that report is about bars and knowing that 70 percent come from the hotel is not a correct assessment of where the calls originated.”

Longhurst said the total number of calls on the list for The Oread were skewed because it included everything that occurred on the hotel property, including medical responses, like for a woman who fainted in her room after a long flight or for an infant who had trouble breathing in a restaurant on the property.

Related document

Lawrence Drinking Establishment Calls ( .PDF )


The city released a list of the total number of calls for services to addresses at establishments with liquor licenses in Lawrence after city attorneys announced last week they were asking city commissioners to seek a suspension or revocation of the Taste Lounge, Bar and Grill, 804 W. 24th St., after three firearm-related incidents since October, including the March 17 shooting of a bouncer. A hearing on Taste is scheduled as part of Tuesday’s city commission meeting.

Chad Sublet, an assistant city attorney, said Taste had the sixth highest number of calls on the list.

But he said city staff members believed they needed to seek a revocation of Taste’s liquor license based on the three firearm incidents — a suspect has been arrested and charged in each case — and other reported incidents of violence at Taste that were more severe than the five other bars or clubs that had higher overall numbers.

The city contacted and met twice with owners and operators of Abe and Jake’s Landing, 8 E. Sixth St. They also met with Jonathan Davis, the registered owner of Tonic, Cadillac Ranch and The Hawk.

A manager at The Hawk said he was aware ownership of the bar had met with the city but that he was not authorized to comment. Messages left for Davis were not returned.

Police calls to Lawrence establishments from Jan. 1, 2011, to April 1

Six highest on the list:

• Abe and Jake’s Landing, 8 E. Sixth St., 163 total; 1 alarm, 42 alcohol complaints, 29 bar checks, 2 bar closings, 26 battery calls, 12 building checks, 2 burglaries, 1 welfare check, 6 disturbances, 1 disturbance with weapons, 1 domestic incident, 1 found property call, 5 medical emergencies, 1 narcotics call, 3 noise complaints, 1 parking complaint, 5 pedestrian checks, 14 requests to speak with an officer, 2 thefts, 5 for trespassing, 3 public urination calls.

• The Oread*, 1200 Oread Ave., 122 total; 8 911 hang ups, 1 alarm, 2 attempt to locate calls, 12 bar checks, 18 battery calls, 2 building checks, 5 welfare checks, 1 civil standby, 3 criminal damage calls, 5 disturbances, 3 domestic incidents, 1 fire call, 3 forgery calls, 17 medical calls, 1 missing child call, 1 noise complaint, 1 pedestrian check, 1 parking violation, 2 private tows, 20 requests to speak with an officer, 1 shooting, 1 suicide attempt, 2 theft calls, 1 threat, 10 trespassing calls.

• Tonic, 728 Mass., 99; 6 alcohol complaints, 12 bar checks, 19 battery calls, 1 criminal damage, 4 welfare checks, 1 criminal damage, 13 disturbances, 2 domestic incidents, 1 found property call, 2 medical calls, 6 noise complaints, 2 pedestrian checks, 23 requests to speak with an officer, 3 thefts, 1 threat, 3 trespassing calls.

• The Hawk, 1340 Ohio, 93; 21 alcohol complaints, 18 bar checks, 10 battery calls, 2 building checks, 1 welfare check, 2 criminal damage calls, 5 disturbances, 1 disturbance with weapons, 6 medical calls, 3 noise complaints, 1 parking violation, 2 pedestrian checks, 11 requests to speak with an officer, 1 sex crime complaint, 7 thefts and 2 trespassing calls.

• Cadillac Ranch, 2515 W. Sixth St., 91; 6 alcohol complaints, 12 bar checks, 15 battery calls, 2 burglaries, 4 welfare checks, 2 criminal damage calls, 9 disturbances, 1 narcotics call, 2 parking violations, 6 pedestrian checks, 1 private tow, 15 requests to speak with an officer, 4 thefts, 11 trespassing calls, 1 public urination call.

• Taste Lounge, Bar and Grill, 804 W. 24th St., 75 total; 1 alcohol complaint, 2 animal calls, 15 bar checks, 5 battery calls, 16 building checks, 1 criminal damage call, 1 welfare check, 1 civil process service, 6 disturbances, 1 disturbance with weapons, 1 domestic disturbance, 2 narcotics complaints, 5 parking violations, 9 requests to speak with an officer, 2 sex crime complaints, 1 shooting, 2 thefts, 1 threat, 2 trespassing calls, 1 public urination call.

  • The Oread address includes both the hotel and development at the address, including The Cave nightclub.

Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said even though many calls were not criminal in nature, such as alarms and bar checks, he was concerned about the number of batteries, disturbances and alcohol violations at the bars at the top of the list.

“I think it’s a very appropriate and responsible action on the city to identify these businesses that have recurring issues and see if the businesses will voluntarily work with the city to try and resolve and reduce the number of criminal incidents associated with their business,” Branson said.

Elwell said most of the problems at Abe and Jake’s during that 15-month period occurred on Thursday nights when it was open to the public to anyone 18 and older with a Kansas University ID. He said the club didn’t have major problems inside, but the list included 42 alcohol complaints at Abe and Jake’s, and Elwell said those likely involved a patron younger than 21 grabbing a drink once they were inside and received a citation by a police or Alcoholic Beverage Control officer.

He also said many of the calls likely occurred in the parking lot outside, and bar staff members didn’t have authority to ask people to leave.

“I don’t know if every incident could be attributed to people at Abe and Jake’s,” Elwell said.

After having conversations with the city about the parking lot and other issues, he decided six weeks ago to only be open for private events, which has reduced the number of calls there.

“It’s a very small group that causes major issues,” Elwell said. “In our situation, the problem’s solved. For other places, one closes, somebody else will inherit that crowd, and they will deal with the same issues.”

Longhurst said if city officials are going to compare the number of calls at drinking establishments, the needs to figure out a way to distinguish the number of calls between The Oread and The Cave, which share an address. She said after reviewing the list of calls the city provided, it appeared only about 35 occurred at The Cave and the rest involved at the hotel.

“Our No. 1 concern is the safety of our guests,” Longhurst said. “We are realistic, and we know that things do happen. But even one incident in our mind is too many. Our Cave managers always try to do the best job they can working in a nightclub environment, and our guests in The Cave are our No. 1 concern as they are in the entire hotel.”

She said The Cave staff members “have done a great job” with safety measures. They use security cameras and checkpoints. They also work to confiscate fake IDs and work with the ABC to try to prevent underage drinking and attend voluntary training sessions offered by law enforcement and state officials.

Chad Sublet, an assistant city attorney, said police supervisors are working to figure out a way to distinguish in the future which calls originate at the hotel and at The Cave.

Longhurst said the city should also likely consider the size of establishments when comparing the number of calls. The Cave has a capacity of 600 people, making it one of the largest venues of its kind in the city.


Branson said the numbers show him that several establishments are having success in keeping their number of calls down. According to the city, the average number of calls during that 15-month period among the 120 establishments was 19.8.

“There’s a lot of good establishments on here that are being managed in a way that they are not creating a bad neighbor situation for them in the community,” he said.

Rick Renfro, an owner of Johnny’s Tavern in North Lawrence, 401 N. Second St., and Johnny’s West, 721 Wakarusa Drive, said the type of clientele can determine what types of issues a bar has. He said bars that attract younger people who haven’t had much experience on how to act when drinking alcohol seem to cause the most problems, so owners and managers need to be vigilant. There were 18 calls at Johnny’s in North Lawrence and 11 in west Lawrence. Both were below average.

“It’s a daily thing that anything can happen at any time when you’re dealing with alcohol,” Renfro said. “You just have to be on top of it.”

Corliss said the city wanted its analysis to be data driven as they meet with bar owners and operators. He also said city officials generally were pleased with conversations they have had with owners so far and that they hoped it could increase safety and reduce the number of calls there in the future.

“Safety is not just the government’s responsibility, and not just the bar’s responsibility,” Corliss said. “The patrons need to be smart as well. Hopefully everybody can continue to enjoy themselves, and we can have a good, safe environment. That’s what we’re after.”

Taste problems

Although, five other establishments or bars had a higher number of overall calls, Sublet in a May 2 interview said law enforcement and city staff members believe Taste Lounge has presented greater public safety concerns and that the calls at Taste were more violent. In a memo to city commissioners, Sublet mentions the three firearm-related incidents since October. Suspects have been arrested and charged in all three of those cases.

But he also mentions other allegations, including the alleged rape in 2011 of a woman who was younger than 21 by a Taste employee in a VIP room and another allegation earlier this year in which three male employees of Taste picked up a woman at another drinking establishment after Taste had closed, took her back to Taste at 2:30 a.m., served the woman liquor “and proceeded to allegedly forcibly rape her.”

In a letter to Taste’s owner, Lee Riley of Topeka, City Attorney Toni Wheeler said Riley had indicated at an April meeting with the city he had planned to cease operations at Taste before May 15.

City officials on Friday said they had not yet received notice Riley had surrendered his liquor license to the state, and Doug Jorgensen, director of the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverage Control division, said Taste still had a valid liquor license. Jorgensen said if a license holder surrenders or has a license revoked, the establishment still could operate as a restaurant, for example, as long as it didn’t serve alcohol.


Steve Jacob 6 years, 1 month ago

I think it's good for the city to rattle some cages to get these places to maybe get more serious about doing extra about security and under age drinking. The cost of spending at little bit more on security, or losing money by not serving minors is nothing compared to fighting to keep your licence.

Alyosha 6 years, 1 month ago

There is nothing in this article that would rationally lead to the above comment's assertion that government knows what's best for you. It is wholly reasonable for the city to evaluate liquor licenses of establishments at which real harm to people is apparently taking place. That's just common civic sense.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 1 month ago

Hmm, more than double what the homeless shelter draws.

Proves my decades-old talking point, KU students are a greater menace to civility than the homeless could ever pretend to be.

flyin_squirrel 6 years, 1 month ago

But students provide and economic boost, homeless an economic drain.

anotherview 6 years, 1 month ago

Did the city figure in the cost of all these police calls when they gave the Oread all the tax breaks to build this facility? Maybe the projections for the added tax revenue that the city is going to receive will be more than offset with higher police expenditures.

Is it possible that the city would not need to build a new $30 million dollar police station and hire 30 additional police officers if they didn't have to make all these calls to the Oread or the other bars that have a high call rate.

rbwaa 6 years, 1 month ago

It seems to me that the number of battery calls should also be figured into the issue ---- Abe and Jake's - 26; The Oread - 18; Tonic - 19; The Hawk - 10; Cadilac Ranch - 15; Taste - 5

Amy Heeter 6 years, 1 month ago

I find it difficult to believe a former judge can't keep the peace in and around his bar.

John Kyle 6 years, 1 month ago

Does he have a picture of Lilly Langtree?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 1 month ago

Is the Oread more violent than the two old establishments it replaced?

There are certainly a lot of drinking establishments in the Oread. Were they in the site plans?

JackMcKee 6 years, 1 month ago

You live in a cave if you don't know the reputation of that bar. Sensible people avoid it.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 1 month ago

I was taking a trip down memory road to the 70s and college after reading this. Attended a good sized U, with a large strip of bars. Town about the size of Lawrence.

My pals do not remember over one or two times cops had to enter a bar. I can think of none. Nor police presence outside. The huge bars/nightclubs/discos had bouncers who handled problems quickly and effectively.

A few joints are still there and visited one last fall. It was a huge place and bet it could have held close to the 600 number the Cave holds.

Why the problems in Lawrence?

brewmaster 6 years, 1 month ago

JackMcKee hints at the cause problem with the first clue of - Topeka. Now for the second clue - Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas

anotherview 6 years, 1 month ago

In a search of the Journal World I noticed two cases that involved current and former KU basketball players: The JW reported on 2/27/12 that "Marcus Morris received a ticket for battery at the Oread" and on 4/22/11 reported that "Thomas Robinson was charged with battery". The articles did not list anyone from Topeka or Kansas City, Ks as being involved.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 1 month ago

1220 Prospect is running these bars a close second. Yes frequent visits and according to neighbors 6 police cars showed up the other night.

Hey city hall what's up with this place? You need to get with the landlord and get rid of this tenant. Is this tenant from Topeka too?

irvan moore 6 years, 1 month ago

maybe the police department could buy up a bunch of the dump houses near the oread and build the new police department there and save on gas going back and forth

Bigdog66046 6 years, 1 month ago

The Cave has a capacity of 600. How many parking spaces does it have for those 600???? oh never mind i guess they are all "guest" of the hotel so they can count those spaces everytime they need to??? This was a bad deal from the start thanks to the city letting them do anything they wanted there.

Jock Navels 6 years, 1 month ago

it would be interesting to check the record and see how many times the coppers were called to the old gaslight and chalk on oread back in the days of those unruly anti-war social revolutionary days of the spring of 1970. OW.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 1 month ago

It's unbelievable the govt can revoke a liquor license for the actions of patrons.

Hire an off duty cop with a uniform and gun to stand outside and roam through the bar. That will help!

Sunny Parker 6 years, 1 month ago

The drunks are to blame, not the bar! Young people are ignorant and need to monitor their drinking habits!

john heleniak 6 years, 1 month ago

It's not just the young people, it is also the older people. Just the other night there was a fight at 6 mile between several older people. Drunks come in all age groups.

hujiko 6 years, 1 month ago

Nancy Longhurst is the master of the non-answer answer. She's the same person that wanted to shut down 12th and Indiana for the street parties, however when confronted by the City Council had no idea how many patrons they expected. Seriously - own up to the fact that your "high-class nightclub" is attracting the worst kind of clientele, and that now the violence is spilling outside your establishment into the neighborhood you duped when building that monstrosity.

Matthew Herbert 6 years, 1 month ago

Your info on the hawk being an underage binge club is accurate- or at least it was when I was underage!

ajdelinquent 6 years, 1 month ago

Actually it has been my experience is that government gets involved because it is asked to. Maybe not by the majority, but by a certain consituantcy. When there isn't a vocal opposing consituantcy then it is seen as a popular movement. We are so used to blaming Topeka, and KCK, and the government and it's agent in this town that the whole state sees Lawrence as the liberal cry-babys.

By design our government is built to be created by, supported by, and made up of the citizens it represents. Unfortunately we have developed a culture in which we'd rather watch network news at 6:35 pm on Tuesdays than becoming a part of it at the City Comission meetings. Be a part of your community before you complain about how poorly it's run.

You ARE the government @oletimer; we all are.

dragonfly0221 6 years, 1 month ago

Call the police and they do their job, but if the DA doesn't stick to the charges and punish accordingly then what was the point in calling the police in the first place. I'd like to see what the results of the arrests and citations were. What actually happened and who got let off with a warning?

Jayhawk1958 6 years, 1 month ago

Also need to require them to beef up their security so our tax dollars for extra police coverage doesn't increase.

Crazy_Larry 6 years, 1 month ago

Alcohol should be outlawed. The police should conduct a War on Alcohol and Cigarettes. Then, after that, maybe a war on people who don't pay taxes. Once that war is over we should have a war on people who don't use their turn signals.

JackMcKee 6 years, 1 month ago

Did I imagine this or did I hear that The Cave was closing for a year?

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