- Ed Richter Staff Writer
UPDATE @ 10:02 p.m.: Middletown City Council has approved the purchase of a problematic bar that has become a nuisance in the neighborhood.
Council voted 4-0 to for the emergency resolution to buy Bar Boca, 124 Charles St. Councilman Steve Bohannon abstained. City Manager Doug Adkins said the emergency clause was requested because the city has a purchase agreement in place.
During the council meeting, Adkins said purchasing the bar is not a tool he would recommend using often. He said purchasing and demolishing the building would prevent it from being re-used as a bar.
“This building has no good use,” he said.
Middletown police Lt. Jimmy Cunningham told this news outlet today’s decision was “huge” because it will get rid of the problem permanently.
“We’re able to eliminate a problem and save the city thousands of dollars in the long run and save some lives,” he said. “The neighborhood signed petitions to get rid of the bar because of all the problems.”
While the police online offense reporting system indicated 15 offense reports since November 2016, Cunningham said there have been 80 calls for service since December 2016 through July 31. He said since 2008, there have been 230 calls for service to that bar under different owners.
Cunningham said the costs to send police officers to the bar on a call for service or to investigate a crime at the bar takes away resources from the rest of the city. He said depending on the type of call, it could require multiple officers to respond. If there is an injury and medics are called, that only increases the costs in terms of personnel, vehicle and other costs.
“We’ve spent a substantial amount of money due to the existence of this bar,” he said.
Cunningham said its difficult and costly for the city to build a solid nuisance case to close a bar because it takes a significant amount of time. The courts need an overwhelming amount of evidence before a judge will take away a person’s livelihood.
Adkins said the future use for the property has not been determined.
Middletown officials have come up with a solution in dealing with a bar that has become a neighborhood nuisance: Buy it, then demolish it.
City Council will consider an emergency resolution at its meeting tonight to spend $35,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to purchase Bar Boca, 124 Charles St.
Kyle Fuchs, community revitalization director, said in a staff report that the city has confirmed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that CDBG funds could be used to purchase the property and its demolition.
He is estimating it will cost the city $8,000 to $15,000 for the actual demolition, depending on what environmental/asbestos factors are found after those surveys are completed and the number of contractors bidding on the job.
“It should be noted as well, the neighborhood residents have had many complaints about the bar and have been wanting something done about it for a while,” Fuchs said. “According to police, this will be a very welcome project for the residents in the area.”
He said the city has already started the environmental and historical clearance process so it can move on the purchase as soon as council gives its approval.
If Bar Boca is closed, it would be the second time a bar in that location was shut down by the city. Miller’s Lounge closed in 2014 after repeated nuisance violations, police said.
Fuchs said police have had many calls for service and crimes committed at Bar Boca.
According to Middletown police, officers have been summoned to that address at 124 Charles St. about 120 times since March 2008. Since Nov. 29, 2016, there have been 15 incidents in which police responded to that location.
In the past several months alone, there have been numerous calls for service, including for: felonious assaults, shots fired, public disturbance, weapons complaints, assault, and violation of liquor laws.
Fuchs said due to the violation of liquor laws and numerous other incidents, police met with the operators of the bar and attempted to get them into compliance with local and state laws to no avail. As a result, the property owner, Charles Napier, of the property has been speaking with Lt. Jimmy Cunningham to negotiate a deal and has agreed to let the city purchase the property for $35,000.
Middletown City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. today in the council chambers at the Middletown City Building, 1 Donham Plaza.