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Tavern in the Square in Allston pledges to beef up security after series of fights

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  April 9, 2013 01:04 PM

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(Boston.com file)

A lawyer for the Tavern in the Square in Allston told city officials the popular bar and restaurant plans to hire a police detail for its busiest nights and is adjusting the volume and genre of music it plays late at night in an effort to prevent violence there.

The establishment went before the city’s licensing board Tuesday morning to respond to four sets of violations filed against it for altercations that occurred on three nights between late December and mid-February.

The licensing board will decide by Thursday whether to penalize the business, which is near the busy intersection of Brighton and Harvard avenues.

The bar was cited for violations stemming from: an alleged fight between a bouncer and a patron on Dec. 23; failing to call police about an alleged patron-on-patron fight on Jan. 12; and for two fights that allegedly broke out on Feb. 16 – one that involved patrons from a party bus brawling with other patrons and bouncers and another fight later that night between patrons.

“We don’t have a long history before your board,” Robert Allen, an attorney representing the bar, told licensing board members Tuesday. “We don’t have a lot of the common problems you might expect,” including underage drinking and overcrowding.

But, Allen said, the bar’s management has noticed that since around the start of the calendar year “a different element” of patrons have been coming to the bar, particularly at night.

Along with its usual crowd of college students, the bar has been frequented by “a different neighborhood crowd in here,” said Allen.

He said the bar has already implemented some new measures, and plans to additional more steps, to improve security.

Allen said the bar will hire a police detail for its busiest nights – Thursdays through Saturdays – and that management is searching for a new head of security along with better bouncers. An outside security firm will be hired to review the bar’s existing security plan, which will be presented again to the bar’s bouncers, he said.

A few new security cameras may also be installed around the property, he said.

And, the bar has recently started to lower the volume of its music and to change the genre of music that is played late at night, according to Allen.

He said the bar’s management has noticed that those changes to the music can impact the type of patrons who show up and how they act.

“Music can calm the savage beast if you will,” Allen said at the hearing.

One of several Boston police officers who testified at the hearing said that the bar generally has generally responded appropriately to disturbances there, but noted that: “things have been picking up.”

“These guys do do their job in there,” the officer said. “It’s a very popular place and it’s just a large crowd.”

Tavern in the Square opened in fall of 2010, moving into a space where the Kells bar had operated for 15 years prior.

Particularly in its final months, the Kells became known as a trouble spot after multiple violent altercations reportedly took place in and outside of the bar, including two deadly stabbings just outside the Kells. The Kells also became known as a popular destination for underage drinkers and disruptive patrons.

Below is a list of the four incidents as described in testimony at the licensing board hearing Tuesday:

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On Dec. 23, there was an altercation between a patron and a bouncer, who each told officers different stories of what happened, according to police testimony.

The patron, who has filed a lawsuit against the bouncer, testified Tuesday that he was “sucker punched” for no apparent reason by the bouncer.

The bouncer testified that he saw the patron putting his hands over a woman’s mouth, asked him to stop and that the patron pushed and punched him as the bouncer tried to escort the patron out of the bar. The bouncer said he then punched the man, who was hospitalized and required stitches. He said the patron appeared to be drunk.

The woman was the man’s fiancée and she punched the bouncer near his groin afterward, according to testimony at the hearing.

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Bar staff allegedly failed to notify police of a fight in the basement coat room area on the night of Jan. 12. A patron allegedly “sucker punched” another patron and then bashed him with a chair, causing “extensive injuries” to his face, including a fractured bone, according to police testimony.

Two days after the fight, a bouncer saw the suspect walking a few blocks from the bar and called police. The man was arrested and is facing criminal charges.

The bar’s staff said they did not notify police immediately after the fight because they did not realize the extent of the fight until they reviewed a security camera video the next day and because the suspect ran away and the victim left under his own will and did not ask for help.

“That’s the only time you’ll hear we didn’t call police,” said Allen, adding later. “We should have called the police regardless of the incident and we do have a history of calling police.”

A testifying police officer agreed that: “Most of the time they do report them. Why they didn’t call this time … I don’t know why.”

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On Feb. 16, two altercations were reported, according to testimony.

The first involved a group of more than 10 people who arrived at the bar in a party bus, police said. Inside the establishment, some members of the group began to cause trouble, including stealing food from other patrons’ plates.

When bouncers asked the group to leave, some of those patrons became “belligerent” and a fight broke out inside the bar and then spilled onto the street, according to testimony.

Punches were thrown at other patrons and at bouncers. A bar manager was punched in the face and hospitalized with injuries including a broken tooth, according to testimony.

A detective who reviewed surveillance video said the bouncers did not appear to initiate the fight nor were they overly aggressive in trying to escort the patrons outside.

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Later that night, a patron said he was dancing with a few women when he was “sucker punched” in the face by another patron, according to testimony. The man told officers he chased the suspect, including jumping over fences and later realized he had a laceration on one of his hands.

Testifying officers said the laceration could have been from jumping the fences or perhaps was suffered inside the bar. The wounded man told police he was drunk and didn’t remember how he got cut, according to testimony.

The bar’s lawyer said that witnesses to the fight inside the bar said they did not see any knives, weapons or stabbing inside the bar.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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