By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Late-night diners and revelers will be seeing an increased police presence downtown on Friday nights.
City Council last night approved Mayor James Fiorentini’s request to use $5,920 in reserve money to pay for overtime for a police officer to patrol downtown on foot from early evening to closing time.
Fiorentini said the money will pay for the beat cop through the end of the fiscal year June 30. He said he intends to include the position in his budget proposal for the new fiscal year that begins July 1, subject to council approval.
“Foot patrols are essential for businesses and for making customers feel safe,” Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien said.
The mayor announced the foot patrols last Thursday night, an hour or so after the city’s License Commission decided to take no action on a proposal to roll back the Friday-night-into-Saturday morning closing time for restaurants and bars from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m. — effectively killing the measure. Restaurants and bars must close by 1 a.m. all other days.
The Police Department wanted the earlier closing time because of the manpower and resources that have to be used downtown between 1 and 2 a.m., police Captain Allan Ratte said.
Restaurant mangers and owners who commented on the proposal at the commission’s hearing said they wanted to keep the hours as they are.
In 2006, the commission voted that all bars and restaurants in the city must close by 1 a.m., except Saturday mornings, in response to a rash of late-night trouble, including fights, vandalism and noise that bothered people who live in downtown apartments and condos.
The change came as city officials began encouraging more residential housing downtown.