Nightclubs, Bars Blamed For A Climate Of Noise, Vandalism
May 27, 2005
By MATT BURGARD, Courant Staff Writer
The frustration for Sharon Lewis and her neighbors has been
building so long and so steadily that when it came time for
them to vent Thursday night, they held nothing back.
"I'm sorry I'm so emotional about this, but if I have to
put up with this for one more summer, I'm either going to be
dead or in jail," said Lewis, referring to the noise, trash
and vandalism that she said stems from the nightclubs that have
popped up in her Hartford neighborhood. "We cannot live
like this another day longer."
Lewis said when she was growing up near Tower Avenue and Main
Street, it was a genteel place where well-to-do, educated black
professionals settled into nicely manicured houses on quiet,
But in recent years, she said, the neighborhood has been besieged
by rowdy partiers who tie up traffic and keep the music pumping
at all hours at a growing number of social clubs and bars on
After years of trying to have the issue addressed through private
correspondence and phone calls to the city's movers and shakers,
Lewis and her newly formed group, Hartford Citizens in Action,
brought the issue into the public spotlight at a forum at the
Union Baptist Church on Main Street Thursday.
"It's too bad it had to come to this to get anyone's attention," she
said as most of the audience of about 50 residents applauded.
Those who did not cheer Lewis' words came to respond to the
criticism her group has aimed at the West Indian Social Club,
a club that has been the focal point for many social and civic
activities for more than three decades.
While Lewis and other residents said the club has contributed
to an out-of-control atmosphere of late-night partying, noise
and lawlessness, longtime club members pointed to their record
of community involvement.
"We care about the community every bit as much as you do," said
Hugh Freeney, the president of the club. "We have offered
hundreds of scholarships to young people in our community, many
of whom would not have been able to go to college without our
assistance. If the problems you are talking about are really
coming from our club, we will address it. But we are not the
source of these problems."
Instead, club owners such as Earnest P. James, who has owned
the Main and Tower Cafe for more than 30 years, said the business
owners can't be blamed for rowdy young people.
"The kids nowadays are totally out of control, and that's
because no one has raised them right," he said. "To
be honest with you, I'm scared of these kids. They're crazy,
they're violent and they're dangerous, and I don't want any part
of them. But it's not our fault they've gotten this way."
One man was shot and killed inside a club in the neighborhood
and another was shot and killed outside James' club this year.
Lewis and other longtime residents said they were tired of hearing
excuses and urged a panel of officials to take immediate, concrete
steps to crack down on noise and crime.
Emma Rose, a neighborhood resident for 46 years, said she regrets
a decision she made years ago to stay in Hartford instead of
moving to the suburbs.
"These clubs think they are doing things to help our youth,
but they're serving liquor all hours of the night," she
said. "How is that helping them?"
Kimberly Taylor, who has lived
in the neighborhood for 44 years, said she understands the
motivation behind a recent marketing campaign to market the
area as "Uptown" to draw in
club patrons. But she said bringing business to the city shouldn't
come at the expense of longtime residents.
"I feel I'm captive in my own home most nights," she
Lewis said the loud music and crowds get so bad some weekends,
she has to go to a hotel to get some peace.
"How did this happen to us?" she
City council member Robert L. Painter said he and his colleagues
would do more to make sure residents are considered when clubs
apply for permits to hold special events. Police Capt. Richard
Kemmett, who was recently assigned to oversee police operations
in the area, said his officers would step up enforcement of parking
and noise violations and crack down on drug dealing and other
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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