The Chip Strip: Trouble Averted
On Friday of last week, I got a phone call from a bar owner on Chippewa. He was upset about crowds that come onto the street around 2AM, blocking the sidewalk and drinking out of bottles, and generally being a nuisance.
He alleged that there weren't enough police patrols and that people staying in the nearby hotels were afraid to come onto Chippewa. "Won't a story like that hurt business?" I asked. He said it was down already.
He told me about how he met with McCarthy Gipson and complained about the crowds and police patrols, and I told him about how I'd just interviewed B-District Chief Donna Berry and Detective Tommy Donovan. At the time, Barry and Donovan made it clear that they were patrolling the area, though shorthanded. Further still, a few weeks ago, when I was on Chippewa taking pictures, it was hard to get a shot without a police cruiser in it.
We parted with the understanding that he (the bar owner) was going to get photos that night. The next day I got an email saying that they were set up to take pictures, but there were no unruly crowds, and there were cruisers everywhere.
"We put out an extra effort these past two weekends," Chief Barry said. "We realized there was a problem there and we're addressing it." As always, it's a matter of getting overtime for officers. Barry also offered, "Entertainment districts don't have a real long shelf life. Look at the flats in Cleveland. The business community needs to get together and rethink the district for mixed use--especially with everything that's going on and planned for the inner harbor and waterfront."
Barry suggested that the area needs more hotels to accommodate events, along with mixed use. "47 West Chippewa could be gutted and made into a great boutique hotel. Look at what the Mansion did for that part of Delaware," Barry said.
"That, or reduce the drinking age to 18," she suggested. "University presidents see binge drinking as a result of the higher age. Our drinking laws should be enhanced to zero tolerance for drinking and driving, but when underage students are drinking illegally at house parties--there are more problems." Barry said that if a student can vote and go to war, they ought to be able to learn to drink responsibly too.
In addition, Barry explained the tough element that shows up on the street. "Many times we close bars that bring a bad element in, and then they just end up on the street," she said. "We're making an effort to keep a close eye before the district takes a turn for the worse."