General Crime

* Walnut Creek Prepares to Crack Down on Rowdy Bars

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After another weekend where drunken brawls took center stage at a handful of Downtown Walnut Creek bars, police are stepping up patrols of these establishments in the hopes of ending a disturbing trend. Police Chief Joel Bryden said today that he would send more patrols downtown to check on these bars on Friday and Saturday nights, when fights typically break out.  Police are hoping the beefed up police presence will help prevent brawls such as those that occurred early Sunday.  That morning, nine people were arrested, two hospitalized and three police officers injured in several drunken fights outside of bars on Locust Street, according to police.

In recent months, police have seen an alarming increase in violence that has escalated from the physical altercations that tend to come with weekend bar crowds. “The thing that concerns me is that they’re becoming bigger and more violent, and we need to put a stop to it before someone gets seriously hurt or killed,” the chief said. He said the upswing in bar brawls stems from several factors, but none more obvious than establishments that over-serve. “We want to work with the bars and we want to work with the
businesses downtown to make it safe,” he said. “It’s their responsibility to not serve drunk patrons…and we are going to hold businesses accountable when they break the law, just like individuals.”

Concerned city officials are doing their part to prevent violence in the downtown bar scene, Bryden said.  At a recent city council retreat, council members asked staff to draft an ordinance that would give the city more control over rowdy bars, city spokeswoman Gayle Vassar said. Currently, the city’s bars are in two camps — bars established before 2004 without a conditional use permit, and those that opened after 2004 that were required to have a conditional use permit. Known as a deemed approved ordinance, the new city code staff are set to present would allow city officials to regulate any businesses that do not meet the conditions of their permits, Vassar said. Those conditions include not over-serving patrons, she said.

On Feb. 7, the council is set to hear an appeal from Lift Lounge, a downtown bar that was recently under review by the planning commission for failing to meet certain conditions of its permit, Vassar said. Still, both Bryden and Vassar stressed that of the city’s 103 drinking establishments, only a handful of problem bars tend to breed

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