‘Cool-down’ period in talks
Restaurants, bars could be required to refrain from serving alcohol and playing music for up to 30 minutes after Alive After Five
In an effort to further calm down the largest event on Main Street in Patchogue Village, the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce has proposed a potential “cool-down” period after Alive After Five, where restaurants and bars would be required to participate in a 30-minute period of time with no music or alcohol.
“It would give police and Public Safety a chance to clear everyone out and calm [everything] down,” said chamber executive director David Kennedy, explaining the idea behind it.
The requirement could be set into effect for next year’s events, which have not yet been scheduled.
This year’s festival ran four events through the summer, with the last one held on Thursday, Aug. 22 and attracting a record number of 15,000-30,000 people to Main Street each night.
The event itself went off without much concern, despite local businesses and officials receiving several anonymous anti-gay mailings in an attempt to prevent the first Pride-themed event in June. Incidents such as the stabbing of two people on Main Street in July happened a few hours after the event ended at 9-9:30 p.m.
“It’s rare we have had something happen at the event; mostly it happens afterwards from the spillover,” Kennedy said. “The cool-down period is simple and easy and would be to slow down the transition from outside to inside operations.”
Bars and restaurants, he said, begin blasting their music inside to attract the crowds from the street. Instead, he said, he hopes to calm the crowds, allowing SCPD and Public Safety to do their jobs before the “party” atmosphere continues.
“The adrenaline from this event is high — people are excited and in party mode — but then it’s time to calm down before we go back to business operating as normal,” he continued. “I understand it’s about the bottom line in business, but beyond that we need to worry about the community as a whole. It’s our responsibility, or we won’t be able to host Alive After Five anymore, and no one wants that.”
What’s being done now?
The AAF committee arm of the chamber meets with the Suffolk County Police Department Fifth Precinct to discuss the event prior to and after each season. They plan to meet in the coming weeks to discuss the 2019 season, with plans to implement more features to keep the event safe.
Current rules include: limiting alcohol consumption to the 20 pens on Main Street and South Ocean Avenue; security at all entrances; a limit of two drinks per patron; and serving cups with restaurant logos on them to easily identify the source.
Support and criticism
AAF chairwoman Jacqueline Routh said she supports the cool-down period.
“When it comes to mitigating risk and protecting residents and attendees alike, nothing is out of the question. There is always room to improve upon what those safety measures look like, and I welcome a continued dialogue on how we can better serve the community during and after all Alive After Five events, while still facilitating financial success for businesses,” she said.
The restaurant committee met yesterday, Wednesday, Aug. 13 to discuss the possibility of the implementation.
Jayme Bonanno, co-owner of The Tap Room and head of the restaurant committee said, “like always, the restaurants are willing to work with the chamber and the village to work through anything that comes up,” also noting that the idea is still a working matter.
AAF participant and Village Idiot Pub owner John Sarno is among the businesses on Main Street not thrilled to hear about another restriction placed on the often-targeted restaurants.
“I don’t think it’s needed,” he said of the cool-down period. “We already have a limit on how many beers each patron can purchase and we spend an extraordinary amount of money on security already.”
The event, he said, is stressed and not as popular as it had been in recent years due to other areas copying the success, including Bay Shore and Farmingdale.
“Most businesses break even in the costs of going outside,” he added. “Once it’s over is when we even make money on the event.”
He questioned the cool-down, stating that it would only penalize the bars, most of which, he said, including VIP, do an extraordinary security job with PSA. Also, all bartenders are TIPS-certified, a training to help identify over-served people.
“Just cancel the event,” he said. “That is what they want anyway.”
Mayor Paul Pontieri, on the other hand, supported it and felt the implementation was one of the few things that should be done for next year.
“We can’t continue this way — something is going to happen and someone is going to get hurt,” he said. “It doesn’t take much to hurt our reputation as a community. We don’t want to be known as a place to get drunk and have a good time.”
He hopes to see all the stakeholders involved in continuing to contain AAF and making it safer. The final decision will have to be made and approved by the chamber’s board of directors sometime before next season.
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