Incoming Chief Has Mixed Views on Earlier Closing Time For Bars

Pytel
Pytel
Darren Pytel addresses a public meeting on Wednesday

At last week’s meeting, both Assistant Chief Darren Pytel and Assistant City Manager Kelly Stachowicz were a bit surprised that, given the lack of students in attendance and the high percentage of those over 50, opinions about what to do were relatively evenly distributed in how to deal with the problem.

As Ms. Stachowicz put it, “There was not clear consensus among those in attendance how the City should proceed, with responses distributed relatively evenly along the spectrum of placing community limits and allowing for individual business discretion.”

Darren Pytel said, “It also became evident there is not really consensus amongst the community or amongst the bar owners on the terms of an ordinance -that was interesting.”

That was the opinion of the 80 or so people in the room a week ago. The question is, what does the 30-plus-year veteran law enforcement official who was just hired as Davis’ next police chief believe?

Darren Pytel was just hired on Friday as the new police chief, effective the first of the year. He figures to be an influential voice in this process.

He told the Vanguard, “That is actually a very complex question with no easy answer because we are trying to predict what students will do.”

Part of what the police have seen is that they have been dealing with fewer house parties over the last couple of years. From the perspective of Darren Pytel, he said, “That is probably because the typical UCD student has changed – students are generally high achievers and alcohol use may not be as high.”

He added, “We are also aren’t dealing with the huge nuisance houses. Most of the students aren’t of drinking age – and traditionally the house parties were largely underage parties. So yes, it could be the drinking age crowd would end up doing house parties or going to Sac.”

He suggested, “We would probably need to really survey the bar user crowd to make a better determination.”

He added, “One advantage to a slightly earlier closing time has to do with our staffing. Our swing shift runs until 2am so our minimum staffing drops in half at 2am. We can’t shift the shift longer because we need the overlap at the beginning of their shift too, which is a busy call time.”

When the council narrowly in October voted to allow the exemption for Blondies to go forward, they imposed a number of new restrictions on them that could become the backbone of a new policy.

Councilmember Brett Lee, in his comments, said that he was supportive of reduced hours, but “11 pm seems a little early, midnight might seem a little early, I think in the interim, 1 am seems reasonable.”

For Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, the restrictions are going to change the downtown scene in significant ways, as he noted this was “a shot across the bow… about how things are probably going to go,” in terms of potential new permanent regulations.

He would add, “I was actually thinking we’re not creating a nightclub if we set the conditions the way they’re set here. We’re pointing a direction to a future that’s going to be fundamentally different.”

“We’re already having a discussion on how to create a safer environment – an environment that will look in two years different from what it looks like today,” he said. “There is a conversation going on about what does it mean that our young people, especially, are over-consuming of alcohol to the extent that they are.”

But not everyone agrees that the council has gone far enough.

Former Councilmember Michael Harrington, who lives near the downtown, said in a statement last week, “I don’t know how it came to be that the City started allowing businesses to morph from nice family restaurants to jam-packed disco halls after 10 pm.”

He added, “I personally believe, even more so today, that the City should adopt a strict prohibition against selling alcohol after midnight.”

“I also heard some testimony that if we don’t allow the jammed disco bar scene until 2 am, all those partiers will go to unregulated house parties,” he said. “I have lived in the downtown since 1995, and I own several properties rented to students.  Sometimes they have parties, and sometimes they overdo it, and the police have to stop by.”

Mr. Harrington added, “Several years ago the City amended the noise ordinance and made the owners personally liable if the renters incurred noise violations. I can tell you for a fact that this change has resulted in much more proactive owners, and the renters are well aware that if they get cited, it could lead to a near immediate eviction and other lesser sanctions.”

One voice we really have not heard much from in this conversation is from the students themselves – it is primarily they who create the market for late night entertainment.

At the Vanguard and Civenergy’s forum, students noted that the large number who are not of drinking age seemed to favor other late night entertainment options that do not involve alcohol. Perhaps that might be part of a compromise solution that would help to calm down the late night downtown.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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23 Comments

  1. Alan Miller

    At the Vanguard and Civenergy’s forum, students noting the large number that are not of drinking age, seemed to favor other late night entertainment options that do not involve alcohol.

    There were a couple of students at the VG forum, there were none at the City forum.  I don’t know why people are discouraged or surprised by this.  Students who’s primary interaction with downtown is to get drunk are not the students who are going to sit for 1.5 to 2. 5 hours in a room on a weeknight personally concerned about the future of downtown Davis or out fighting to keep their local drinking hole open late; personally, I don’t give a crap about the input of young binge drinkers — I say that as a former UCD binge drinker circa early 1980’s.  I do care to have student input, but the couple of students at the VG forum calling for more entertainment options that don’t involve alcohol are a self-selected few who probably aren’t so focused on drinking as a goal in itself.  I agree with their cause, and I would like to see the same, but creating profitable businesses on such a model won’t likely approach the profits of alcohol sales, so little business incentive; as for government attempts see:  Davis Teen Center.  I can tell you the input of college binge drinkers:  “more bars, more hours, lower prices #slightly slurred speech#”.

  2. Alan Miller

    “Our swing shift runs until 2am so our minimum staffing drops in half at 2am. . . .  .  which is a busy call time.”

    The shifts change at the exact moment the bars let out, prime time for attempted and successful drunk driving?  That doesn’t seem the best structure.

  3. Anon

    There is no one right answer here.  Certainly a minimum of wanding, training staff to abide by ABC regs, force the bars/nightclubs to have sufficient security, make the bars/nightclubs fiscally responsible for the harm they cause, e.g. clean up of vomit on the sidewalks, extra porta-potties, insisting bars/nightclubs not engage in unsavory practices, might go a long way to alleviate some of the problems.  I don’t really see the closing time as that big an issue – except for one phenomenon that has been occurring recently.  There have been a rash of early morning robberies of UCD students, especially those exiting bars inebriated, some robberies involving guns.  One reason why it might be worth closing bars at midnight is to encourage students to go home earlier. Just a thought…

    1. Alan Miller

      One reason why it might be worth closing bars at midnight is to encourage students to go home earlier. Just a thought….

      This goes against the reality of what we called in the early 80’s D.P.T., or Davis Party Time.  It didn’t matter what time you scheduled a party, people would show up and start drinking between about 9:30 and 10:00, and continue until 1-2am.  Closing the bars early would just stop service before party hours were over.  What people would do is speculative, but I doubt most of the students would “go home” in the middle of prime party hours

    2. David Greenwald

      Maybe a slight modification here – there may be one right answer here, it’s just not apparent to me. However, I believe shutting down the bars earlier will lead to other problems. I find Pytel’s comment about alcohol and high achieving interesting, but I’m not sure I completely agree. I know a number of highly elite universities with pretty serious drinking.

  4. Alan Miller

    “I don’t know how it came to be that the City started allowing businesses to morph from nice family restaurants to jam-packed disco halls after 10 pm.”

    I agree with Harrington on the above, as the problem (except the use of the word ‘disco’).  What I don’t agree with is his solution of shutting everything down at midnight.  The problem is the, um . . . disco halls, themselves, not the closing time.  The early closing time will kill the disco halls, already on the way out through self-shutdown and City regulation, but it will also kill the rest of the downtown.  Target the problem business model, which only involves a few bad morphers, not the closing time.

  5. Frankly

    Reactionary old farts against young adults.

    Davis core area as a retirement village or a vibrant commercial area that supports the needs and wants of the entire population.

    The conflict is clear.

    One side is more right than wrong, and the other side is more wrong than right.

    The volume and repetitiveness of opinion being heard is not a reliable indicator of what is right and what is wrong.

    1. Anon

      Actually if the city can tame the downtown so it is safer, there might be even more vibrancy!  There is just disagreement on how to make the downtown safer.  A good start has been made, with the additional regs under which Blondies must operate.  Perhaps we should start there, and see how well that works.

      However, I personally think we may have a bigger problem.  I suspect, from the rash of crime lately (strong armed robberies), this town has been pegged as an easy mark.  The only way I know how to address that is more police out in force, at least for the immediate future, to deter that type of crime.

  6. Frankly

    However, I personally think we may have a bigger problem.  I suspect, from the rash of crime lately (strong armed robberies), this town has been pegged as an easy mark.  The only way I know how to address that is more police out in force, at least for the immediate future, to deter that type of crime.

    Anon and I completely agree with this, although we tend to disagree on most else related to this topic.

    – San Luis Obispo has a population of about 47k and 60 sworn police officers for a ratio of 1 cop per 783.3 residents.

    – Chico has a population of 90k with 100 sworn officers for a ratio of 1 cop per 900 residents.

    – Davis has a population of 72k with 61 sworn officers for a ratio of 1 cop per 1,180.3 residents.

    You want to understand why Davis gets visits by so many criminals… it is that we don’t have enough cops.

  7. Tia Will

    Frankly

    You want to understand why Davis gets visits by so many criminals… it is that we don’t have enough cops.”

    Maybe….or maybe not. You would need to know the crime rates and breakdown by type of crime as well as when they are occurring to know if this is true or if there are other factors of equal significance.

  8. Tia Will

    Frankly and MH

    More police officers is definitely part of the solution.”

    Agree that it is “part of the solution”. Do not see it as a panacea. But then I rarely see a single solution as the answer to a multifactorial problem.

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