Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In the Small Hours of the Morning in Hudson

In the aftermath of some destructive rowdiness outside Wunderbar in September, the Common Council began mulling the question of how to deal with late night disorderly, often dangerous and destructive conduct near and presumably emanating from particular bars in the city. On Monday night, police commissioner Gary Graziano and HPD chief Ed Moore were at the Police Committee meeting, armed with information and statistics that had been requested by the Council. 

Graziano had been asked how much it would cost the City to have two more officers on duty from midnight to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. (Currently, there are only three officers on duty through the night in Hudson.) His answer was $48,880--$47 an hour (the officers would have to be paid overtime) x 5 hours a night x 2 nights a week x 2 officers x 52 weeks a year.

Moore offered statistics about the number of times the police were called to three bars--before and after 2 a.m. The statistics cover the first ten months of 2014, from January 1 through October 26.

Moore also reported, based on police records, that "large disturbances seem to happen more after 2 a.m." and "stabbings, shootings, and fights seem to happen after 2 a.m."

Barbara Walthour, owner of the Savoia, objected to Moore's numbers, saying he was claiming there were 12 more calls to the Savoia than there were when the police chief reviewed the numbers with her previously. Moore explained that conversation took place in July, and there had been 12 calls to the Savoia since July. Walthour tried to dismiss the evidence, saying the police had been summoned by "the lady at the corner who calls all the time." Later, a man who had accompanied Walthour to the Police Committee meeting insisted, "The same person who doesn't want the Savoia to be there is making the calls to the police."

Walthour's companion at the meeting, identified in the Register-Star as James Rose, described a pattern of late night behavior. "The crowd from Wunderbar [which closes at 2 a.m.] come to the Savoia looking for food." Whereas the restaurants in Hudson typically close their kitchens and stop serving food at 9:30 or 10 p.m., the Savoia doesn't start serving chicken wings and other bar food until 11 p.m. Chief Moore talked about "travel points": "If one place closes at 2 a.m. and another stays open, [between those two points] is where things get broken." He cited planters, flowerpots, and car windows. He also talked about "loud gatherings, assaults, and fights . . . happening outside the bars." 

Walthour countered by saying, "I can't do anything more than I've already done. . . . What happens happens after they leave my establishment." Mayor William Hallenbeck corroborated Walthour's claim: "The Walthours have always been cognizant of the need to run a safe establishment." In contrast, Council president Don Moore told Walthour toward the end of the meeting, sarcastically and with a hint of frustration, "You've done a very good job of explaining why none of this is your responsibility."   

Down in the Valley Designs
Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) made the point that Hudson's main economic engine is now tourism. "We cannot have shootings in the street, and we can't have people fighting in the streets." Friedman's comments reinforced those made by Bob Rasner, the proprietor of a bed and breakfast on the 200 block of Union Street, who told how he had reassured guests on Friday when they checked in that it was safe to walk on Warren Street at night only to have them read the next day that overnight there had been a shooting only a couple of blocks away.

It was revealed that the victim of the shooting early Saturday morning reportedly told police he had been drinking at the Savoia, and there is allegedly evidence that he had been at Wunderbar earlier that night, but Alderman David Marston (First Ward), chair of the Police Committee, cautioned, "It is not a productive path to connect shootings and the bars." Later, Rasner told of his experience in two other communities where, he reported, "business went away overnight when someone was shot." When he called the current situation in Hudson "a ticking time bomb," Hallenbeck cut him off. "You're making it sound like you can't walk on the street," Hallenbeck protested. He spoke of reforms made in the police department during his administration and told Rasner that, although he often agreed with him, in this instance, he rejected what he was saying.

On the topic of police reform and crime, Chief Moore reported that a comparison of crime statistics for 2013 and 2014 shows that the number of crimes is trending downward, but he also noted that the severity of crime is escalating and suggested that there is a correlation between late night drinking and the severity of crime. 

No decision has yet been made about imposing a 2 a.m. closing on all bars in Hudson. Marston noted that only 36 percent of the police calls to bars occurred after 2 a.m. He also asked rhetorically, "Do two bars warrant a change that affects all bars?" 

Alana Hauptmann, proprietor of the Red Dot, pointed out that there had been no police calls to the Red Dot in 2014, and, in the fifteen years the bar and restaurant has existed, "it's rare that we ever had to call the police." She argued that it was unfair to require all bars to close at 2 a.m. when only two bars were problematic. "We don't stay open until 4 a.m. every night," said Hauptmann, "but when we do, that's when we make money."

Tony Stone, co-owner of Basilica Hudson, suggested that having all the bars close at 2 a.m. might bring new problems. "If all the bars closed at the same time," he mused, "it might be more dangerous if a hundred intoxicated people were on the streets at the same time."

Chief Moore noted that bar owners in Hudson used to have an association to discuss problems and brainstorm solutions, implying that such an organization might be useful again. In answer to a question from Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward), Moore confirmed that the police department had filed a report about the Savoia with the New York State Liquor Authority and were awaiting a response.


  1. I think it should be noted that the Chair of the committee, Alderman David Marston is an employee of the Half-moon bar. At some point as this goes forward, perhaps he should recuse himself for this discussion. Further to his comments at the meeting, there is ample evidence that refutes his dismissal of connecting violence and shootings to high alcohol consumption.

    1. Bob, cheap scare mongering does a flimsy argument make, especially when distorted enough to let correlation imply causation.

      Plenty of peer-reviewed research points to Increased assault levels when bars are forced to close earlier & at the same time. In the Netherlands, police support 'free closing time' as it has played a profound role in reducing alcohol related violence there.

      While I appreciate your bravery in protecting our tourist economy, I would urge you to develop a less sensational & reactionary approach. I’d remind you that there are also clear & present dangers to restricting what a lot of tourists come here for- food, drink, and entertainment.

  2. If those are the hours in issue then there should be a walking police patrol. It was that way years ago. Of course this did not help my father who was in his 50's in the early 1960's. Like hundreds of men in Hudson he liked certain bars, and he was born and raised in Hudson. He went to the then Harlem Bar after being at Leo's one night, drank his beer, left, was nearly beaten to death by two men who robbed him of a few dollars and also told him he wasn't welcomed in that area as a white man. My father held no prejudice but these two men did. One kicked his jaw so hard it nearly ripped off.... my father crawled home to my mother who took him to the hospital where he stayed for surgery to wire his jaw back on. I was so angry as a teen, that if I had dynamite it would have been tossed in to that bar...but that was the teen thinking back then... the adult knows that when men or women drink too much there can be trouble, it had nothing to do with the bar or it's proprietor. It had to do with the ones who had criminal behavior. I didn't get to see the police report as a kid, but I don't think those two men were even from Hudson. I no longer live in Hudson, but I think a police presence was powerful then and would be powerful today. Bad people are bad people, drunk or not.

  3. Has anyone entertained the use of video cameras vs. the costs of add'l Police scheduling?
    Is there NY State funding available for video surveillance to assist small Cities?
    The use of cameras in Hudson near "high crime" areas (I do believe many are located in non-bar areas of Hudson) could possibly decrease drug dealing, etc.
    I would be very interested in seeing a monthly list of Police calls to Hudson's bars & what each complaint was about, i.e. noise, fighting, etc. So if the warmer months are when the high percentage of complaints occur, then add'l Police manpower could be scheduled for that time of year.
    I believe a proprietor is not responsible for the misconduct of patrons after they leave his/her establishment. Unless of course it's related to driving. Or are there laws stating otherwise?

  4. During last evenings meeting, one bar owner repeatedly claimed no responsibility for patrons acts once the left the owner's establishment.
    New York law says the owner may be held liable under what is known as the Dram Act.
    What is a Dram Shop Act?
    Dram shop acts or laws place liability on drinking establishments for serving alcohol to persons who are already obviously intoxicated. Business institutions such as taverns, pubs and bars may be liable for damages to third parties who are injured as a result of the sale of alcohol.
    A brief summary .....
    Most dram shop laws also make it illegal to serve alcohol to minors who are intoxicated. Not all states have dram shop acts, and they vary widely from state to state.

    What does New York’s Dram Shop law cover?
    New York dram shop law is found in section 11-101 of the New York General Obligations law. Under this law, it is illegal for businesses to serve alcohol to persons who are visibly intoxicated. The definition of “visibly intoxicated” is left largely to the discretion of the employee who serves the alcohol. Tell-tale signs of visible intoxication may include slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and lack of physical coordination.

    New York is unique in that patrons themselves may not sue the business establishment. Instead, the bar or tavern may be held liable for damages caused to third parties who were injured by the patrons of the bar who were served alcohol. For example, if a bar serves a person alcohol, then that person drives away and injures another person in a car accident, the people injured may sue the bar for contributions.

    Dram shop laws in New York hold the bar liable if their patron injures a pedestrian. Damages are not limited to vehicular accidents but may include incidences where the patron engages in a fight or attacks an innocent bystander. Employees are also prohibited from serving alcohol to persons who are known to be habitual drunkards.

  5. I thought the HPD has 28 officers working now. Does this mean 25 of them work the day shift? Can't schedules be rearranged to beef up the evening shift to avoid overtime and keep Hudson safe? Does it always have to be about more and more money at the taxpayers expense to do the job the HPD is paid for ?