Old Town Violence Spurs Ordinance Change Discussion

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email
Violence in Wichita

Photo blurry because it was a hand-held time exposure

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Violence in Wichita's Old Town district has gotten a lot of attention lately, and now the city council is preparing to take action. City leaders will begin discussing changes to local ordinance within the next few weeks.

After four consecutive weeks of shots fired at bar closing time, people have had enough. Now, the Wichita City Council is stepping in. They will take a look at crafting two new ordinances. One deals with loitering. The other could result in not allowing people under 21 into the clubs.

"As the old bartender saying goes, 'You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here,'" said City Council member Janet Miller.

Every time violence has broken out in Old Town recently, it's been during bar closing time.

"We had some problems with cars that appear to be cruising, coming into the area and just circulating around," Miller explained. "You have people milling around in the streets and that doesn't seem to be a good mix."

Until now, police have only been able to tell loiterers that they are "highly encouraged" to move along or go home. Now, the goal is to put some teeth behind those orders.

Secondly, if bars can show that 30% of their receipts come from food sales, they can allow people under 21 inside despite having alcohol available for sale. Some bars are reportedly putting out makeshift buffets and charging a cover at the door and allotting that cover charge to food sales.

"We want to look at that ordinance and see if that really coincides with the 30% food service that we have with all the other nightclubs," said Council member LaVonta Williams. "Because then that affects the age of the patrons of that club."

At Heroes Sports Bar, General Manager Eric Davisson is helping to get all the bar owners together on the same page and believes loitering at closing time is the biggest concern.

"There's that tendency to kinda mill about thinking maybe you'll meet your future ex-wife that way," Davisson said. "And, really, it's time to head home at that point. If you haven't been able to get the job done by 2:00, it's time to try again the next day."

Business owners and city leaders are hoping to change the perception that Old Town is dangerous, which they say it's not. They point out that all of these recent problems have happened in a very small timeframe on the weekends between midnight and 2am.

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