Stories in the Eagle-Tribune and the Boston Herald recount the meeting between Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua and owners of bars along Essex Street earlier this week. The Mayor – who last summer laid-off 41 police officers – was looking for money to help pay overtime costs for a special police unit to patrol the area in those dangerous hours when the bars close and patrons hit the streets.
From the Herald:
Mayor William Lantigua touched off a firestorm this week when he told bar and club owners the city may be forced to shut them down at 11 p.m. or midnight unless they cooperate with a plan to put more cops on the beat. The plan calls for the owners to chip in anywhere from $50 to $250 per weekend — depending on the size of the establishment — to pay for cops to patrol until 3 a.m
The rise in shootings has Police Chief John Romero very concerned and likening the after-hours scene to “Mardi Gras at closing time.” Owner reactions were mixed with some unhappy with the cash request while others see the need.
Paul Morton, owner of Claddagh Pub, also said he’s willing to chip in a little more toward the cause.
“It doesn’t help anyone’s business when there’s bad publicity for the city,” he said. “And we all have to work together to promote safety and community. And that’s what we’re doing.”
Bar owners felt an 11pm or midnight closing time could be devastating for their businesses. The Eagle-Tribune noted an added twist to the meeting when Lantigua reportedly asked the Police Chief to step out of the meeting so he could speak more directly to the bar owners.
But the mayor offered a forceful defense of the plan yesterday after news organizations received an anonymous e-mail critical of the proposal to ask the bars and nightclubs to fund the patrols. Lantigua emphasized that no bar or club would be forced to pay for the patrols and said none would lose police protection or its liquor license for refusing to contribute to the effort.
Nevertheless, Lantigua acknowledged that the meeting with owners and managers on Tuesday became heated enough that he asked police Chief John Romero to leave the room so that he could “talk to some people in language they know.”