City officials, businesses agree increased safety is key in Five Points
Fri, 28 Sep 2012 11:50:00 GMT —
COLUMBIA (WACH) - In response to the violent weekend in Five Points, Columbia city leaders are vowing to stake a stand against businesses that serve alcohol to underage individuals as well as bars that over serve alcohol.
City Councilman Cameron Runyan says the recent violence in Five Points that included gun shots and two assaults has the city looking closely at over-serving bars and underage drinking as factors in those incidents.
"Bar owners [in Five Points] who are shoveling dollar drinks down people throats all night; that's what [the bars] cater on. That's the way [the bars'] entire business model is built around; that concept of volume, volume. When you talk about volume of alcohol, there's serious consequences to that," said Runyan.
Runyan says that the bars taking a dollar from anyone who has a dollar to put on the table is leading to many of the problems in the Five Points area.
Business leaders in the area think city officials should not point fingers during the crackdown.
"If you have stiffer penalties on the people that are going out overindulging, getting in these fights and underage drinking - cracking down on them - that's going to deter [the problems]," said Jennifer Zagata, who believes the bars get more punishment than those creating the problems.
Zagata manages Kelly's Columbia's Vista and has been in the restaurant business for 16 years. She spent part of that time in Five Points and has seen her fair share of problems in the popular entertainment district.
"I've seen people have a massive brawl in the street," said Zagata.
While Zagata says people having too much to drink may lead to fights, she also says bartenders can't always know how much someone has consumed.
"Many times you have a group of people come in; they sit and one person comes to the bar and orders five drinks, and takes it to [the group]," said Zagata. "How are you supposed to know that person has been over served?"
While there are different opinions on the best way to create a safe bar scene in Columbia, everyone agrees that increased safety is a goal that should be achieved sooner as opposed to later.