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December 18, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Weekend curfew to be proposed for kids downtown

Businesspeople welcome such a rule: ‘Really nothing for kids to do down here anyway’

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Leila Navidi

A packed Fremont East District on Friday, July 5, 2013.

Fremont Street Enforcement - July 2013

Officer I. Williams cards Christopher Stovner, 22, in the Fremont East District on Friday, July 5, 2013. Launch slideshow »

With another Friday night of drunken revelry coming soon to east Fremont Street, Mayor Carolyn Goodman is introducing a new law creating a curfew downtown on weekends that might aid Metro Police efforts to control an area growing in popularity by the week.

To be introduced at the City Council’s meeting Sept. 4, the geographic-specific ordinance is a curfew for those under 18 from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. in an area bound by Sahara and Eastern avenues, Interstate 15 and U.S. 95.

As written in the agenda for next week’s meeting, the mayor wants the ordinance “fast tracked” so it can be considered for a potential vote at Sept. 18 meeting of the City Council.

“Those 18 and above are adults but not old enough to drink, so what it will do is help reduce the number of young people who are downtown, the same as on the Strip,” said Dave Riggleman, city spokesman.

The mayoral proposal mirrors Clark County law, which prohibits those under 18 from being on the Strip from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., Friday, Saturday and legal holidays; and between 6 pm. on Dec. 31 and 5 a.m. Jan. 1.

Both the city and county also have municipal-wide curfews for all other days from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m, Sunday through Thursday; and midnight to 5 a.m., on Friday and Saturday.

Reaction to the idea, which many downtown businesspeople learned of earlier this week, has been positive.

“It makes a lot of sense to be in line with what Clark County does,” said Terry Murphy, president of the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance. “And it makes a lot of sense based on what’s going on downtown not to have underage kids out after a certain hour. “

For the past several months, the Fremont East Entertainment District has drawn huge crowds of people on the evenings of the First Friday art walk. Though First Friday happens a mile to the southwest, Fremont Street becomes flooded with people after the art walk ends.

Tavern owners have publicly worried that if violence erupts, it would hurt business on what is for some the busiest night of the month.

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People with a case of beer hang out in the Fremont East District on Friday, July 5, 2013.

Indeed, one shooting did occur June 8 on Fremont Street but under the tourist-centric Fremont East Experience canopy not in the Fremont East corridor, which is seen as more of a draw to local residents.

In turn, Metro has flooded the Fremont East area with officers in the past three months. One source said as many as 60 officers, some on horseback, some part of a special underage drinking patrol, some in uniform and others in plainclothes, have blanketed what is essentially a one-block area where hundreds of mostly young people stand on the sidewalk meeting, talking, listening to music coming from the bars, and drinking.

On the night of Friday, Aug. 2, and the early-morning hours of Aug. 3, Metro reported 54 arrests: 17 for outstanding warrants; 13 for alcohol-related offenses; three for narcotics; five for disturbing the peace; and 16 for “other” reasons.

Metro’s Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws program were also part of the enforcement action. Metro said that of 181 people stopped, eight, or about 4.5 percent, were cited for underage drinking. Another 22 citations were issued for alcohol-related offenses.

In addition, police shut down two taverns, Vanguard Lounge and Beauty Bar, for 24 hours. Metro said the bars were deemed a public nuisance largely because both played music loud enough to be heard in the street.

What the police effort indicated to many, however, was that underage drinking shouldn’t be the main focus of city worries.

“It’s only one piece of the puzzle,” said Murphy, Downtown Alliance president. “Now we have to look at how other entertainment districts look at the conflict between certain uses, drawing crowds and making people safe. That’s how you deal with growing pains.”

City Councilman Bob Coffin agreed, saying he wanted to learn more about the idea before saying yes or no to it.

“There’s a lot more involved down there,” said Coffin, whose ward includes Fremont Street.

Derek Stonebarger, an ownership partner of The Atomic, 917 Fremont St., a new tavern further east that in years to come will likely become the epicenter of the street as redevelopment continues, likes the idea of a curfew.

“There’s really nothing for kids to do down here anyway,” he said.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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