Salem Police: Roosevelt's bar jeopardizes public safety
By Andrew Hickey and Sean Corcoran
SALEM — The Licensing Board will ask a Derby Street bar owner to answer charges that frequent fights outside his business are causing a public disturbance and creating an unsafe atmosphere.
A reported brawl that erupted early Friday morning outside Roosevelt's, 300 Derby St., prompted Licensing Board Chairman Harold Blake to request that the bar's owner, Henry McGowan, appear at a hearing next month.
Police said roughly 20 patrons were involved in the fight and it took the entire nighttime roster of eight patrol officers to quell the melee.
Salem police Lt. Andrew Ouellette said fights outside Roosevelt's at closing time have been a continuing problem. McGowan went before the Licensing Board as recently as Jan. 10 to discuss the trouble at the pub and possible remedies.
"Three officers — a sergeant and two patrolmen — came in to testify to the board that they spent numerous hours breaking up fights between people coming out, to the point it is actually tying up all the cruisers in the city," Ouellette said.
The calls for police assistance are putting the rest of the city's public safety in jeopardy, Ouellette said.
Board members have recommended that McGowan close at midnight rather than 1 a.m., hoping to reduce the crowd coming from out of town, Blake said. Because problems have persisted, Blake said the board may now ask McGowan to close at 11 p.m. to see if that helps.
McGowan said yesterday that he's taken the board's past advice and started shutting down at midnight. He also raised the cover charge from $3 to $5.
"I'm trying to play the game fair," McGowan said.
And while McGowan said he's not surprised he'll again be called before the Licensing Board, he said shutting his doors at 11 p.m. could kill his businesses or force him to close the bar completely.
McGowan said most of his customers — up to 250 on Thursday and weekend nights — show up around 10:30 p.m.
"That's going to hurt me terribly," he said. "Who wants to come to a club that closes at 11 p.m.?"
McGowan also disputed that 20 people were involved in the most recent fight. He said six people were brawling while the rest of the crowd gathered to watch.
The clash was sparked when one of the men arrested, Matthew Silva, 21, of 43 Harris St., Peabody, allegedly took a swing at McGowan. The owner says Silva "went berserk" when McGowan told him he wasn't allowed back inside because it was after midnight. Roosevelt's bouncer Anthony Spiridis, 32, of 14 Clinton St., Lynn, was also charged in the fight.
"The whole thing lasted 15 seconds," McGowan said.
McGowan said he's trying all he can to curb violence at his business. He calls police at the first sign of trouble and tries to disperse crowds that hang around outside after last call. However, McGowan admitted, any establishment that serves alcohol will have an occasional problem.
"It's less than 1 percent of the people who come in here that start the fights," he said.
Ouellette said he hopes the board will take up the matter at its Feb. 14 meeting. If not, it will be heard on Feb. 28.
"It is something we want addressed as soon as possible," he said.