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I-Team: Neighbors Upset With Noisy Boston Bar Patrons

By WBZ-TV's Jonathan Elias
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People gather outside a downtown Boston bar at closing time.

People gather outside a downtown Boston bar at closing time.

WBZ-TV's Jonathan Elias Jonathan Elias
For more than a quarter century, Jonathan Elias has been an award...
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BOSTON (CBS) – There are more liquor licenses than ever in downtown Boston and nightlife is booming, but some of the people living downtown aren’t too happy about it.

To see why, all you have to do is take a look at what the i-Team’s cameras captured at closing time on weekend nights.

Our video shows hundreds of noisy bar patrons spilling out onto the streets, police and ambulances everywhere, street fights, many very intoxicated people, and noisy, boisterous crowds blocking traffic.

WBZ-TV’s Jonathan Elias reports

And it’s a scene played out downtown just about every weekend.

“Absolutely atrocious, unforgivable, improper, anti-societal conduct,” says Tom Dwyer, a lawyer and former prosecutor who lives in the Ritz Tower, which is in the middle of the city’s party zone.

“There are fights, there are people falling down and getting sick,” Dwyer says. “On the vast amount of nights it’s just mayhem.”

That mayhem is described in hundreds of police reports and dealt with at weekly hearings held by the Boston Licensing Board, where bar owners are called to task for trouble in and around their establishments.

The i-Team pored through licensing board records from the last three years and found: 185 assaults; 41 assaults with dangerous weapons, including guns, knives, baseball bats; 64 patrons over-served alcohol; and 37 large scale brawls.

Four years ago the state gave the city permission to give out 55 new liquor licenses, bringing the total to over a thousand for the first time.

That’s a financial boost to many local businesses, but begs the question: What has it done to the quality of life for people living downtown?

“We’re talking thousands of people living in this particular area who if they go out at night any one of these times, they’re going to face havoc,” Dwyer says.

Thousands of residents, indeed. The Boston Redevelopment Authority reports that the number of people living in downtown Boston has jumped 22 percent in the last decade.

“We’re just trying to keep the peace down here,” says Boston Police Captain Bernard O’Rourke, commander of the downtown district.

Asked about the disorder outside bars on weekend nights and its effect on downtown residents, O’Rourke says: “We do our best to deal with it. It’s something we deal with every single weekend down there.”

And the over-serving of alcohol is a big problem. “There’s clubs that really just don’t pay attention to it,” O’Rourke says.

Nicole Ferrer is the chairwoman of the Boston Licensing Board. She and Patricia Malone, the city’s director of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, mediate between the bar owners and the people who live downtown.

“We do our best to make sure that the licensees take every precaution to make sure these assault and batteries don’t happen,” Ferrer says.

Adds Malone: “These people know exactly what they moved into. Sometimes they’re on top of the licensed premises and so they’re willing to give the business a shot.”

Dwyer, who can see and hear the chaos from his condominium, says the problem is getting worse. “The culture promotes the notion to young kids that you cannot have a good Friday or Saturday night unless you go down to the city of Boston, go to some hot bar, and get drunk.”

Police acknowledge the bedlam at closing time is a drain on resources, but say for the last four years, downtown bar owners have been helping to pay for extra police on the street.

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