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Shootings At Papa's Pizza, The Mansion Prompt City To Examine Ordinances

JEFFREY B. COHEN

June 18, 2009

In the aftermath of shootings at Papa's Pizza that killed one and wounded four others nearly two weeks ago, Hartford is considering at least two options to strengthen the law that regulates late-night restaurants.

First came a plan from the city council for a new law that would force restaurants that serve food between 1:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. to get a city license. If approved, the draft law would allow police to take away the license and temporarily shutter a restaurant when there are complaints of "serious criminal activity."

Then Mayor Eddie A. Perez said he wants to amend the city's existing law which gives police the ability to force business owners to hire police details, but applies only to convenience stores and places of public amusement to include late-night restaurants.

"The good news is that you have two proposals to look at the issue, and the more proposals the better," Councilman Matt Ritter said.

All of this comes after the early morning of June 12, when five people were shot near Papa's Pizza and another person was shot in the stomach a few blocks away inside the downtown club The Mansion. Last Friday, four people were stabbed in a parking lot after they left The Mansion. That same day, the state's Department of Consumer Protection closed the club until its owners come up with a plan to ensure public safety.

The state held a meeting Wednesday about the problems at The Mansion with the club's owners and operators and city public safety staff.

Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr. said that police and fire officials will inspect The Mansion and that another meeting will come next week to determine what needs to be done to make The Mansion safer. In the meantime, The Mansion will remain closed.

Although the city can force The Mansion to hire more police at its own expense, it doesn't have that option with Papa's Pizza or other establishments like it.

In February, Hartford police concerned that hungry after-hours partygoers at Papa's were causing too much trouble asked the city's attorneys if they could invoke a city ordinance to force the restaurant to hire and pay for its own police detail.

The answer was no: The ordinance applies only to clubs and convenience stores.

The city's position now, apparently, is that the law could in fact apply to the pizzeria if amended.

"You can change the ordinance to make it apply to other businesses," Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said.

Perez's proposed changes to the existing ordinance aren't limited to restaurants. In fact, he wants to give police the authority to force "any other business open between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 5 a.m." to hire police at their own cost, if needed.

"The reason they're doing that is they're trying to address the problems ahead of the curve," Kennedy said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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