Last week, Boston Licensing Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini had two East Boston bars owners that have a history of being a nuisance in the neighborhood appear at the meeting.
Owners of Billares Colombia and Bohemio’s Restaurant on lower Bennington Street were called before the Licensing Board last Tuesday and Pulgini and the board are now considering rolling back of the these two bars’ hours from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m.
At the Licensing Board hearing District A-7 Captain Kelly McCormick testified that both patrons and employees at the these two bars and two other bars are responsible for some violent incidents in the neighborhood, are over taxing District A-7’s staff during the overnight shift and called for their hours to be rolled back to 1 a.m.
“The 2 a.m. licenses allow everyone who has been over in other places, other bars in East Boston have 1 o’clock licenses, bars in Chelsea, bars in Revere, bars in Winthrop, they all have 1 a.m. licenses. They are all considered residential communities. So they leave there and they are coming down to us,” McCormick testified. ““If you’re on Bennington Street at 10 o’clock at night, it’s a ghost town. If you’re down there at 1 a.m. it’s packed. The parking lots are packed. The streets are packed. There are all kinds of issues. This has been a magnet to draw everyone in for last call, to get those last drinks. This is substantially impacting the neighborhood and the people that live there.”
Two other bars on the same stretch of Bennington, La Gran Manzana and La Terraza, were also mentioned and could soon be brought before the board.
At last week’s hearing Pulgini said she doesn’t think anyone else’s testimony is more important than McCormick’s testimony commenting, “The police officers who are there Friday and Saturday nights and if their services are being drained so they can’t respond…that’s why we’re here today.”
Last month Police Sergeant William Toner brought the recent problems at the bars to the Licensing Board’s attention. Toner reported of stabbings, muggings, and fights outside the Bennington Street establishments at closing time.
“We’ve had a number of incidents in that lower Bennington area,” Boston Police Sergeant William Toner told the board.
Sergeant Toner highlighted recent incidents outside of Bohemios located at 30 Bennington St. and the Billares Colombia pool hall next door to Bohemios.
On Saturday, March 17, a man was stabbed shortly after 2 a.m. on Bennington Street near Marion Street. A little while later another man was beaten and robbed of $1,000 a few blocks away.
Sergeant Toner also testified about a January 10 incident outside Bohemios at closing time. Toner described a scene of utter chaos as police tried to break up a series of fights that were erupting after the bars let out. Even with the arrival of police one suspect sucker-punched a man standing on the sidewalk in front of police, and he was later arrested.
Police have longed complained that the bars on lower Bennington Street did not have a proper control at closing time, which had resulted in ‘multiple stabbings’ and fights after 2 a.m. Police have called that portion of Bennington Street the ‘most violent area’ in Eastie, according to testimony.
McCormick has been putting extra patrol cars on duty outside the troubled bars at closing time, and has made repeated requests for the Licensing Board to roll back the hours of these problemed bars.
McCormick also pointed out that other cities and towns like Chelsea and Revere have 12 a.m. or 1 a.m. closing times.
“These bars on Bennington Street hold 2 a.m. licenses so you have people heading over from bars in Chelsea and Revere where they’ve already may have been drinking all night, which is a recipe for trouble,” said McCormick. “The problem is these bars in East Boston should not be serving patrons that are already intoxicated.”
The problem is compounded by overly intoxicated patrons leaving these establishments alone in the early morning hours and being victimized by muggers.
McCormick was also of the opinion that due to Eastie being a mainly residential neighborhood there really is no reason to have ‘bars’ that are open all hours of the night.
This isn’t the first time these Bennington Street bars found themselves in hot water with the Licensing Board. Bohemios, Billares Colombia and La Terraza were all brought before the board to answer questions following several violent incidents that stemmed from their establishments back in 2015.
In 2015 Pulgini gave the three establishments one week to come up with a security plan or face losing their licenses.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for the Board was an incident on October 27, 2015, when patrons of La Terrazza allegedly got into a fight with patrons of the other Bennington Street establishments at 2:20 a.m. that resulted in one person being stabbed and seriously injured.
At the time, the owners of all three establishments agreed to meet with police to come up with a security plan, but also complained that they were victims. The owners said troubled started when Chelsea rolled back its last call closing time to 1 a.m. Owners say patrons from Chelsea then travel to Eastie to find one final drink, which ultimately leads to trouble.
However, Pulgini wasn’t buying it and told the owners in 2015, “You’re going to sit down with the police. This isn’t going to happen anymore.”