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LoDo bar owners look for solutions to rising violence

Some think extending bar hours would help reduce violence. Others think it could make things worse.

DENVER — Violence in LoDo has been on the rise and while police are looking for solutions, so are bar owners. 

A Rockies day-game means Chris Fuselier's business, Blake Street Tavern, is filled with baseball fans. But, he said at night, he's seen about a 25% decrease in post-game business. 

“I have a number of customers who have small families and they’re telling me that, ‘I won’t even go to Rockies games at night and I only go to day games,'" said Fuselier. "I think a lot of it has to do with the perception that bad things are going to happen after midnight."

Denver Police Department (DPD) said there's been 201 assaults in LoDo and the surrounding area so far this year. That's a 67.5% increase over the area's three year average. 

RELATED: 'What we are seeing is not acceptable': Denver Police chief concerned over rising crime in LoDo

This spring and summer, DPD said it's been using several strategies to help prevent crime including: 

  • Portable lighting to increase visibility
  • Closing vehicular traffic on streets/blocks that see a lot of pedestrian traffic during this time
  • DUI patrols
  • Limiting street parking
  • Increased number of officers with high-visibility foot patrols
  • Patrol cars parked in high-visibility locations with overhead lights on
  • Command post set up in area (Large truck)

DPD also said relocating food trucks is another way to reduce crowds that cause congestion. 

RELATED: Food trucks fight back after LoDo ban prevents them from operating

RELATED: Denver bans food trucks on LoDo's busiest streets

"The Denver Police Department recognizes that relocating food trucks may initially cause disruption for the food truck vendors," DPD said in a written statement. "However, to increase safety for all who visit and work in the LoDo area, including the food truck vendors, DPD believes that having them operate in a different location is a solution to help facilitate people leaving downtown during the out-crowd and to curb large gatherings, during which DPD has seen conflicts and violence."

Fuselier said he believes allowing bars the option to stay open until 4 a.m. could help reduce violence. Right now, bars must close at 2 a.m.. 

"People are going to peter out and they’re going to leave at different times and then it’s up to each bar’s discretion whether you want to stay open until 4 a.m.," he said. “There’s not going to be groups confronting groups or you’re not going to have these huge clumps of groups where someone who wants to commit violence can impact a lot of people at once.”

Owner of Swanky's Vittles and Libations, Mark Kinsey, said he doesn't think extending bar hours would help.

"For doing this as long as I have and knowing the people that are more likely to partake in the extra couple hours of being open, those are the wild ones," said Kinsey. "Those are the ones we've got to watch out for."

Kinsey said he believes business owners need to be conscious of their bars and how they're run. 

"I think it's our responsibility first, the owners of the venues," he said. "We maintain a good crowd. We don't allow people to take advantage of our rules and policies and procedures."

Both Kinsey and Fuselier agree, having a doorman check bags for weapons, not allowing outside alcohol and a safe environment are key to keeping things peaceful. 

"We really watch our crowds," said Kinsey. "We really just make sure people are having fun and being safe."

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce is also getting involved in this conversation. In a statement, vice president of government affairs Adam Burg said: 

“There has been talk of staggering closing times so that everybody isn’t doing last-call all at once. But the details of those discussions are still preliminary. The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have an official position yet, but some of our members think it’s worth exploring. 

Obviously in this conversation the big concern is establishments simply continuing to allow people to drink an additional two hours and then releasing them all at the same time. And does that create even more problems than we see now? That’s something I think licensing at the City of Denver would have to look at in coordination with business owners. 

We also wouldn’t want to have a scenario where certain businesses are prioritized and maybe are staying open a couple hours later, and they’re able to generate more business and create an unfriendly business environment towards other establishments required to close earlier.”

A bill that would've extended bar hours failed earlier this year. 

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