Last week’s Metropolis story (“Waiting for Drunks”) included an account by a former owner of Bar 9 of his dealings with the fire marshal and the police. Tim Ledger said that he, his business partner, and his patrons were the victims of harassment after the bar managers decided to fire two off-duty police officers working part-time as security guards. Ledger alleged that the fire marshal began to crack down on the club for exceeding its occupancy limit of 49. He also said that a vice officer strongly implied that his problems with the public intoxication tickets attributed to the bar would be taken care of if the off-duty officers were rehired.
The current managing partner of Bar 9, Tino DeFranco, said that Ledger’s accounts were not only categorically false but that Ledger never dealt with the city and was just misinterpreting DeFranco’s accounts of what actually was happening. DeFranco said he believes that Ledger was motivated by sour grapes and that Ledger wanted to deliver “one more stiff jab” on the way out the door.
Ledger said he stands by what he said about the episode with the vice officer – and all his other statements.
DeFranco did meet with a vice officer, but, according to his account, the officer did not threaten his liquor license or imply that if off-duty police officers were rehired the harassment problems would go away. What the officer did say, according to DeFranco, was that the number of tickets issued for public intoxication had increased since the off-duty officers were fired.
“The reason he was there is because we had so many PIs (public intoxication infractions) from the time that we’d let the cops go,” DeFranco said. “What he said to me was that if the cops are there, the PIs go against them, they don’t go against us. … Part of them being there is the due diligence of dealing with drunken patrons.”
DeFranco rehired the officers a couple of weeks ago and said that since he rehired them, his sales have gone up. He also said that there has never been a physical confrontation since he took over almost eight months ago, due in part to the officers and the four other security guards in his employ.
“To be honest with you, since we’ve brought [the officers] back, it’s already shown up in our sales,” he said. “They help us quite a bit. If we have a confrontation or if we have a drunken patron, it’s their standing order to come and grab them and escort that person out. We’ve been there seven months and never had a physical confrontation bigger than guys pushing on each other.”
DeFranco also said that Ledger exaggerated the presence of the police department’s paddy wagon. Ledger said that the wagon was out in front of Bar 9 every weekend. DeFranco did say that it was there once a weekend for about a month and a half but that it was parked in front of Bent Lounge across the street most of the time “because they’re the ones having the most problems.”
Ledger also claimed that the fire marshal was harassing Bar 9, even closing down the second floor of the multi-level complex. But DeFranco said the fire marshal has come in on his own time twice and shown him what is wrong with the building.
“When we took over, the building was in disarray,” he said. “The guys that were running it were trying to run it into the ground to get the investors to walk away from it. There were a lot of things in that building that were just plain neglected. The fire marshal has some legitimate gripes.”
Ledger and DeFranco do agree that the 9,000-square-foot bar went two and a half years without being cited for surpassing its maximum occupancy limit – and have their own ideas about how that happened, considering the attention being paid to the situation now. DeFranco has already raised the occupancy limit to 140 and is making improvements on the building that will utilize the space more effectively.
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