After the second fatal shooting this month outside Up Or On The Rocks, a downtown night spot, Mayor Pedro E. Segarra is calling for more police in bars and a change in a state law allowing 18-and-over parties in nightclubs.
"My preference is that youth not be allowed in a place where liquor is served," Segarra said.
A fight broke out at Up Or On The Rocks, at 50 Union Place, about 12:30 a.m. Friday. The fight continued outside, and 21-year-old Miguel Delgado of East Hartford was shot in the chest, police said.
Delgado is the first cousin of Robert Cotto Jr., secretary for the board of education in Hartford.
"He was a beautiful kid, and everybody loved him," Cotto said.
Delgado was pronounced dead at 2:15 a.m. at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. The shooting was Hartford's 18th homicide of the year, including a fatal shooting by police in May.
State law allows 18-and-over parties as long as younger people are kept apart from those old enough to drink. But distinguishing the age groups can be difficult when there is a big crowd, Segarra said.
Hartford police Lt. Brian Foley said a younger crowd can be more difficult to control and creates a potential for problems and violence.
Segarra said city officials are reaching out to downtown bars and nightclubs who host "juice bar parties" to remind them to comply with the statute. He also said police officers should be posted inside the businesses to monitor the parties and ensure compliance.
Up Or On The Rocks, which frequently hosts 18-and-over events, has agreed to close temporarily until a security plan is in place. The owner, Jerry Fornarelli, could not be reached for comment.
Investigators have identified the shooter and are making rapid progress, Foley said.
He said the fight was over "something frivolous."
The other fatal shooting outside the club occurred Aug. 4. Police said that Brian Simpe, 19, of Manchester, was killed during an altercation that started inside the club and spilled onto the street after the club closed.
The man police believe is responsible, Mike Cruz, 23, was arrested a week ago in Florida during a Disney vacation.
Staff at neighboring city establishments said the two shootings have scared customers and caused business to slow down.
Jerry Storo, the front office manager at Holiday Inn Express on Asylum Street, said guests have been reluctant to leave the hotel. The hotel's back end is across the street from Up Or On The Rocks.
Last month, the hotel hired private overnight security. Storo said it probably will need to do so year-round.
"It hurts everyone," he said of the shootings. "It overall hurts the big picture for the city because people don't want to come here. ... Who wants to go out to the park, to the Bushnell, when this is happening?"
Because it's close to insurance companies, the hotel typically attracts a corporate crowd, Storo said. But fewer customers have stayed there since the shootings, he said.
"A lot of our guests call us and ask if the area is safe," Storo said, "and we have to answer truthfully."
"When I came in at 6:30 [Friday] and saw the cop car, I thought, not again," he said. "Our guests shouldn't have to worry about this. You shouldn't subject other businesses to your troubles. I just hope that it gets better."
A supervisor at the nearby Black Bear Saloon on Allyn Street said the 18-and-over nights at Up Or On The Rocks draw "a bad mix" of customers.
"It's not a great addition to the bars down here," said the supervisor, who declined to give her name. "We're trying to make downtown a better place for people to come. People are [now] more reluctant to come downtown."
Since the first shooting outside the club, business is "definitely a lot slower," she said.
Michael Zaleski, head of the Hartford Business Improvement District, said the shootings are jeopardizing the city's downtown revitalization efforts.
"There is a significant amount of investment that the city, the state and private investors and owners continue to make in the downtown," he said. "We can't have one business putting at risk the revitalization of the downtown."
"Perception and reality of the downtown are critical," he continued. "Thousands of dollars have been invested to try to change people's perceptions of the city. We need people to be able to feel safe in the entertainment district. These types of incidents can't continue to happen."
Zaleski sent a letter to Segarra on Friday calling for the permanent closure of Up Or On The Rocks.
"The disturbing spate of violence that has emanated this summer from this club must end," he wrote in the letter. "We request that you take the next step to permanently revoke all club and entertainment licenses that the city has issued allowing this business to operate. This club has quickly become a significant public nuisance. We will also be formally requesting that the State Liquor Commission review these two incidents and revoke the nightclub's liquor permit."
Zaleski said a "strong message" must be sent to bar and club owners that the city won't tolerate operations that endanger the public's safety.
"While our request may appear drastic to some, we believe the viability of the city's entertainment district, and its numerous restaurants, bars and cultural destinations, hangs in the balance," Zaleski wrote. "We cannot allow a problem business like Up Or On The Rocks to continue to do significant harm, set back progress and discourage future investment. The city must move quickly to close this nightclub."
Anyone with information about Friday's shooting is asked to call Foley at 860-757-4463 or the anonymous tip line at 860-722-8477 (TIPS).
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at