Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 24, 2012

Newsmakers: Woes at downtown TC bars


TRAVERSE CITY — Editor's Note: Part of a series of stories about people, places and events that made news in the Grand Traverse region in 2012.

Things seem to have quieted down around the Union Street bars, police said.

But it's not clear whether the decrease in boisterous behavior is the result of increased diligence on the part of bar owners or simply the onset of winter.

Traverse City Police Capt. Mike Ayling, who reviews every department police report, said he has read fewer reports generated by incidents on the 100 block of South Union Street in recent weeks.

"Things have slowed down, but it's also not summer," he said.

Concern about the Union Street corridor, home to Dillinger's Pub, Bootleggers, Union Street Station, Union Cantina and 7 Monks Taproom, spread this summer after several rowdy incidents, including a fight that resulted in the smashed window of a nearby store; the arrests of a man and a woman police caught fornicating in a vehicle; and a drunken driver who hit a parked car and fled the scene of the accident.

City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht sent a letter to Dillinger's, Bootleggers and Union Street Station in late September. The letter asked the bars to beef up their security measures.

"If no improvement is made or if the situation continues to deteriorate, the city will be left with no other option but to object to the renewal of the liquor licenses for each establishment," Trible-Laucht wrote.

Rick and Christina Thompson and Kelly Greilick, co-owners of Union Street Station, submitted a column to the Record-Eagle in response to the city's letter asserting they always took security at their bar seriously.

Union Street Station has floodlights in the front and the back of the building, the column said. The bar also staffed two security guards responsible for both monitoring activity inside the bar and stopping patrons who were visibly intoxicated from entering the bar.

Union Street Station has added additional safety measures since then, including a third security employee and a log book used to keep track of individuals who are either cut off by bartenders or thrown out of the establishment.

Rick Thompson said it seems things have improved around the Union Street bars.

Scott Lama, a manager at Bootleggers and Dillinger's, agreed.

He and Thompson each said officials from the city and the police department met with bar owners in October and discussed how to curb rowdiness.

Police have been "100 percent on-board," with helping out at Union Street Station since then, Thompson said.

The result of the meeting for Bootleggers and Dillinger's was cooperation. The bar adopted some security measures at the request of the city, and the city reciprocated by installing lights in the parking lot behind the bar within a week of the meeting.

"I think what they've asked us to do has helped and what the city has done helped, too," Lama said.

With New Year's Eve fast approaching, Ayling said it is important for local bars to watch out for two things: over-crowding and over-serving.

Union Street Station, Bootleggers and Dillinger's will have additional security guards and staff on hand for one of the busiest drinking nights of the year, but Thompson pointed out bars can only do so much to prevent the shenanigans of intoxicated individuals.

"It's kind of a frustrating thing for me because you can't fix stupid," he said.