After the latest police calls to Roosevelt’s Restaurant & Bar in Westville Village, owner Ted Hines said he has heard his neighbors’ concerns.
He said his seven-member security and bouncer staff on Fridays and Saturdays are carding heavily. Starting this weekend, as the weather turns warmer, they will also no longer admit you if you are wearing hoodie, jacket, or even a cap, he said. And he’ll keep beer bottles out of the hands of potential head-crackers.
He made that promise Wednesday night as his employees at the restaurant at 883 Whalley Ave. toasted his 36th birthday. Meanwhile, four blocks up the hill on Fountain Street, neighbors up at a monthly West Hills/Westville Community Management Team meeting were besieging city officials to shut him down.
Gathered at the Mauro-Sheridan Interdistrict Magnet School were about 40 West Hills and Westville residents expressing deep concern to acting police District Manager Lt. Elisa Tuozzoli and Alder Richard Furlow, who were updating them on the status of Roosevelt’s.
Last weekend, on Saturday around 1 a.m. police were called to Roosevelt’s with reports of under-aged drinking and several fights breaking out. One of the officers arriving to help restore order was herself slightly injured in what the police reported as extensive rowdiness, which then spilled out into Roosevelt’s parking area and to other locations. The police report stated that underaged drinkers were served and fights, some of them bloody enough to send participants to the hospital, occurred all night.
That, combined with Hines’ history of having had to close an establishment at a previous location on State Street, led Westvillians to challenge Furlow as to why such an establishment is even allowed to open in Westville Village.
Furlow reported he had met with a representative of state liquor commission, who visited Roosevelt’s and “read him the riot act.”
However, the commission found nothing out of order — Hines contended he scrupulously avoids serving under-aged clientele — and there were no grounds to revoke a license. “They were honest,” Furlow said. “The commission is very lenient.”
At one point during Wednesday night’s management team meeting, Furlow brandished his cell phone. He showed his audience he had 14,000 emails and messages, many recently about Roosevelt’s. He called the situation “touchy.”
“We have to be in support of businesses. Now that he is reopened, I’m hoping he’ll be in compliance. If not we’ll have to gather information [that is, public complaints, violations, etc] and [ultimately, if necessary] bring it to the liquor commission to say that he can no longer be on Whalley. Run your business well and have [sufficient] security for godsake! The community’s had enough and wants him out. I’m trying to extend an olive branch.”
That state of affairs was unsatisfactory to longtime Westville artist and property owner Thea Buxbaum.
“The alderman [Furlow] is totally on top of it, but he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place,” she said during the meeting. “An operator, like Hines, with a history can just change names and reopen.”
“The issue is not the liquor,” Furlow said. “It’s got everything to do with the clientele.” One of the reported fights started inside the bar, the other outside, he said. “It takes the community to make something happen.”
He reported that Roosevelt’s had been closed down for two days recently, not by the police but rather the city health department, after inspector Roz Hamilton, had found several violations. Those — including Hines himself needing to receive state-mandated food handling certification— had been attended to, and the bar/restaurant is now open and fully operating.
Furlow was careful to caution management team members not to be overly zealous: “As a community we need to keep our eye on. But don’t police them. But if you see something, call me, and I’ll do my bet to get down there, even at two in the morning.”
The strategy, he said, is to compile violations and complaints and have that in hand to present to the police and eventually, if necessary, to the liquor commission when Roosevelt’s license renewal comes up.
Meanwhile Over At Roosevelt’s
After the meeting, inside Roosevelt’s, Hines contended that the coverage in the Independent was overblown in describing the partying at his establishment as “raging” and the ensuing fight as “mayhem” .
Nevertheless, Hines said, some changes are in order.
“It’s my responsibility to change the dress codes,” he said, as he finished up a bowl of wings still sparkling with what he proudly described as his “secret, sticky barbecue sauce.”
As the weather warms, he said, his security crew will no longer admit people wearing hoodies, jackets, or even caps. Otherwise visitors might conceal weapons, he said.
Another promised change on the way: When customers order beer, the beer will not be presented in a bottle placed on the bar. Hines said in one of the altercations, one patron hit another on the head with a beer bottle. He said he’ll serve beer in cups instead.
However, he insisted, he is scrupulous both about checking the age of his customers and not letting the drinking get out of control. “Twenty one and up” he said, pointing to a line that a customer cannot cross at the entryway to the bar area without first having been checked for age outside and given a wrist band by one of the bouncers.
Hines also insisted that he keeps an eye on the customers. “If I feel someone is getting intoxicated,” he said, “I send them home.”
He also insisted that the establishment doesn’t market itself to people as a drinking hole. “It’s the wings,” he said, offering a reporter a taste. “Four hundred pounds of wings a week.
“I’m food, not liquor.”
Hines argued that his community-mindedness is not sufficiently appreciated. He said his establishment — at previous locations — hosted fundraisers both for area politicians as well as for causes such as cancer care.
He also said he appreciates health inspector Roz Hamilton’s actions, even though she had closed him down for two days. While his employees had the food handling certification, she had insisted that he, as the owner, is also required to have it. He took the course last Friday, he said.
“She’s getting me to where I should be,” he said.