The city of Schenectady may let a lot of minor quality-of-life problems slide, but it appears to be doing a decent job zeroing in on some of the big ones.
The recent crackdown on problem bars, subject of a story in Friday’s paper, is one such example. Within the past two years, the city — in conjunction with the State Liquor Authority — has managed to shutter six of seven bars responsible for more than 1,000 police calls over that time frame. Two taverns — Ray’s Bar on Congress Street and Club Illusion off Erie Boulevard — accounted for 560 calls between them, with regular reports of shots being fired, assaults and stabbings.
These kinds of incidents are, of course, a serious public safety threat — even to innocent bystanders — and thus intolerable; and any establishment that has so many of them as to require almost constant police attention have to change or be chained. It’s not fair to taxpayers, who are footing the bills associated with police protection; or to law-abiding citizens, who may occasionally need police services themselves but are left in the lurch when cops are so regularly being diverted to trouble-prone bars.
While proprietors of these establishments may not be legally responsible for the misadventures of their patrons, they can’t simply turn their backs on what goes on in them. They must make adjustments — such as hiring capable bouncers, cutting off troublemakers or people who are intoxicated (often one and the same), playing less inflammatory music, etc. It’s not simply enough to make patrons walk through a metal detector on their way in, as one club owner said defensively. The fact that he even needs one speaks volumes about the kind of people he attracts.
A year ago, when the city and SLA shut down Club XI on North Broadway after a “massive bar fight” involving more than 100 patrons, Mayor Gary McCarthy threatened to “leverage all resources available” to close such businesses; apparently, he wasn’t just blowing smoke. Kudos to him, to police and the SLA, for following through and keeping the heat on places like Mason’s Club, Doug’s Tailgate Tavern and Joe’s Bar.