Wishful thinking on bar conflicts

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LEWISTON – Planning Board solutions to conflicts between Park Street bar patrons and elderly Oak Park Apartment Building tenants might not be feasible, according to city officials.

Police Chief William Welch said suggestions like putting up cameras in city parking garages and stationing officers outside of each club would be costly.

Other ideas, like banning especially rowdy bargoers from outside the Club Adrenaline and the Blue Elephant, might not be legal.

“The bars along Park Street have been an issue for 30 years, as long as I’ve been an officer,” Welch said.

Elderly residents of the Oak Park apartments complain that bar patrons leaving the two Park Street clubs make too much noise as they walk to their cars in the Oak Street parking garage. Oak Park residents complain noisy patrons keep them up until after 2 a.m.

Councilors listened to residents complaints in November, then referred the matter to the Planning Board.

One thing the board did agree about is that zoning is not the answer, yet. Members recommended waiting six months before they consider changing the zoning along the street.

City Administrator Jim Bennett said their ideas were a good starting point.

“But these ideas may be wishful thinking,” Bennett said.

The city already has police officers regularly stationed around the clubs, unless they are called to another part of town. Police can’t just ban people from certain areas, either.

Welch said cameras for the city’s Oak Street parking garage would cost at least $15,000 each – and that’s not money the city has right now. He’s not even sure they would fix the problem.

“If there is vandalism in the garage, it’s pretty hard to link it to these two clubs,” he said. Other bars and businesses use the garage at the same time and their patrons could be just as responsible.

In the end, councilors said they’d like to meet with the Planning Board to look for solutions. There is little they can do now, Bennett said.

“Right now your ability to influence the future of these bars is limited to whether or not they screw up,” Bennett said.

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