Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 9, 2012

Editorial: Find solution to Union St. troubles


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---- — It was a scene straight out of a western. A group of men got into a fight on Union Street about 2 a.m. Aug. 2 and two of them ended up smashing through a large display window of Wilson's Antiques, 123 S. Union St.

Adding to antique dealer Tammy Grant's trauma at finding the business where she is a vendor essentially vandalized by a bunch of drunks was that the brawlers also smashed a window display she had put together for the Traverse City Film Festival that replicated an old-fashioned home movie theater.

On Thursday morning, however, all that passersby could see was a huge sheet of plywood where the window had been. "Wilson's Antiques — yes we are open" was spray painted across the plywood, but that didn't do Grant much good.

It was hardly the first time there has been late-night violence along that stretch of Union; there are three bars in a row there, another bar just across the street, and a restaurant that serves alcohol a couple doors down.

There have been numerous fist fights and a few stabbings on the sidewalks there over the years, and there's often even more violence in the alley behind the bars. While not a nightly occurrence, hardly a week goes by without at least one fight.

The common denominator is, of course, alcohol. While police could not say if the four men involved in the Thursday fight had been at any of the bars there, alcohol has been a part of virtually every instance of violence in past years; many of the combatants had been in one or more of the bars there.

Traverse City police Capt. Steve Morgan said deterring drunken behavior there is a major concern; police regularly put extra patrols in the area, and last year, the Downtown Development Authority helped fund extra officers. Bar employees often break up fights and Morgan said police regularly assign extra officers to Union Street during the early-morning hours. Obviously, however, the problem persists.

As we saw during the National Cherry Festival when a group of police officers trying to arrest a man for allegedly making crude remarks drew a hostile crowd, numbers aren't always the answer.

A solution must be found. Dozens of people out for a night with friends have found themselves in the middle of a fight about to erupt or worse. That can't be tolerated.

Bar owners, business owners and the city have to find a way short of creating a police state to take back the sidewalks. Brawls, smashed windows and terrorized citizens are not acceptable.