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May 3, 2013

Bars fight off earlier closing time

City to add Friday night walking police officer downtown

HAVERHILL — The License Commission took no action last night 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.

After the meeting, Mayor James Fiorentini said he will ask City Council next week to approve his plan to assign a police officer to a walking beat downtown on Friday night. The shift would start next Friday, last through the summer and be paid for with overtime money, the mayor said.

“I don’t have a position on the earlier closing time, but let’s see if the walking patrol solves the problem,” Fiorentini said.

At the commission’s meeting, Captain Alan Ratte, the Police Department’s liaison to the commission, said the department wanted closing time rolled back to 1 a.m.

“The police chief wants the hour rolled back because of the resources we have to use downtown between 1 and 2 a.m.,” Ratte said of police Chief Alan DeNaro. “We end up sending officers down there between those hours that could be elsewhere. It can leave us short covering other parts of the city.”

Restaurant mangers and owners who commented on the proposal last night said they prefer to keep the hours as they are.

Toma Sargent, owner of Toma’s Bar & Grille on Washington Street, said he does up to $1,000 in sales during the 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday-night-into-Saturday-morning hour.

“I’ve been here for many years and had zero problems, so we should my hours be reduced?” Sargent said.

That was also the prevailing sentiment among commissioners.

“I prefer to keep the hours as they are and, if there are problems with a specific restaurant or bar, then we’ll address them on a case-by-case basis,” commission member Timothy Coco said.

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