Downtown cops and club owners got together for lamb gyros and hummus at Greek Cusina on SW Washington last Thursday afternoon, August 31. But after snacks and casual introductions were out of the way, things took a serious turn—the first item on Central Precinct Commander Mike Reese's agenda was the "Shootings at Roseland."
Early on Saturday morning, August 26, in the parking lot behind the Roseland Theater, four people were shot in an exchange of gunfire between members of the rival "Rolling 60s" and "304s" gangs, according to police. Police are claiming "posturing onstage" by rappers with opposing gang affiliations led to the shootout.
At a meeting earlier in the week, cops pegged hiphop music as a potential cause of shootings ["Rap Sheet," News, Aug 31], and have also recently raised the ire of some club owners, who've likened crackdowns in the entertainment district to fascism ["ID Check," News, Aug 3].
But Thursday afternoon, the controversial hiphop issue was firmly off the agenda. Instead, the meeting marked a more cooperative turn between police and clubs.
The cops now want to share a list of identified gang members, compiled by their gang enforcement team, with downtown club owners. They also want to hand over the cell phone numbers of weekend police sergeants—in hopes that better communication will prevent problems that start in clubs from spilling out into the streets.
"We need to share information. If you have an altercation inside—and you're 86ing someone—maybe we can escort them to their car or take other appropriate action to stop that incident from developing," Reese said.
In the meantime, the club owners present at the meeting—representing most downtown clubs, with the exceptions of Voodoo Lounge, Ohm, and Food Hole—agreed to start a district-wide 86'ed email list, and to have their DJs announce a new message to their patrons: If you're 86'ed from one club, you're barred from all the other clubs downtown for three months.
"There's probably a few people causing the majority of the problems," said Reese. "And if you, as private businesses, decide to share who you're 86'ing, I think that's great. It sends a message to these folks."
Cops and club owners are also concerned about what's going on outside the bars, on downtown's sidewalks, and in parking lots: Aggravated assaults—leading to serious injury, or committed with a weapon—are up 23 percent in the Entertainment District in the year to date (from 194 to 238 incidents).
The cops say the assaults are mainly the result of drunken clubgoers loitering outside after being kicked out or after the clubs close—but club owners say they're powerless to move people along once they're outside.
Tim Pearce, owner of the City Sports Bar on SW 4th, challenged Reese. "If any of your cops want to work a plain-clothes shift at the City one night, without a uniform on, asking people to move along again and again without police authority, I'll pay them to try it," he said.
Police contend they're hindered by the lack of a Sit-Lie Ordinance—without it, they don't have the authority to shoo people out of the Entertainment District after closing time.
"We don't have a city ordinance anymore that allows us to move people out of the way," Reese told club owners. The city's previous Sit-Lie Ordinance was abolished in June 2006, and Mayor Tom Potter's Street Access for Everyone committee is currently considering new regulations. ["Sit Down," News, May 18].
Officer Todd Wyatt, who works out of the Central Precinct, urged club owners to lobby city hall for a new ordinance: "Seattle has a law that addresses the problem in two sentences," he said. "But when we tried to push it, we were told no, because city hall doesn't listen to us as much as to private citizens."
In the meantime, Greek Cusina owner Ted Papas says he'll continue to do everything he can to minimize problems, but said the problem of street violence was not entirely the club's fault.
"The real problem is with the drug dealers," he argues. "Last week, I saw 20 crackheads down on the bus mall on 5th."
Cops hope that as the summer winds down, so will the club-related problems.
"We've been hiring a lot of officers on overtime, burning both ends of the candle," said Reese. "Hopefully, it will trail off when the weather turns and we'll be able to redirect our resources to cleaning up the bus mall and the area around."