Officials examine E. Lansing bars
Licenses up for discussion as officials review establishments
Graduate student Scott Chu, left, and MSU alumnus Pamela Wall shout during the Michigan vs. Kansas basketball game March. 29, 2013, at Crunchy’s, 254 W Grand River Ave.Danyelle Morrow/The State
Despite hundreds of illegal incidents that occurred last year, both East Lansing officials and the MSU student patrons attending bars are happy with the city’s bar scene — something that might bode well for the local liquor establishments hoping to renew their licenses in coming weeks.
About 449 significant incidents have been reported in 2012 at 15 of the city’s more popular bars and restaurants, according to East Lansing’s liquor law enforcement officer’s log, as well as a list of incidents obtained from the police department — incidents that could impact their upcoming liquor license renewal.
Since the end of February, the city has been undergoing a renewal process for the city’s bars and restaurants’ liquor licenses, which expire April 30.
East Lansing Mayor Diane Goddeeris said the city and council will look at the severity of the incidents, as well as the number of them and the pattern in which they occur, when reviewing the liquor licenses.
During 2012, seven violations were reported amongst eight of the major bars in East Lansing, including serving to minors, over-intoxication, obstructing an entrance and over-occupying a building, according to the documents.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in this community that doesn’t feel there isn’t an obligation to not only run a good operation but also have (a) safe environment for the people that are there,” she said. “Their liquor license is of great value to them. They want to preserve that. And so they operate in the best way that they can. Again, we’re just watching to make sure there’s not a pattern and that’s why we review them.”
The discussion of the liquor license renewal process will go before the East Lansing City Council at its work session at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 410 Abbot Road.
East Lansing police Capt. Jeff Murphy said while some bars have more incidents and violations than others, East Lansing has an overall positive, healthy and safe bar scene.
“If you take all the takeouts and bars and restaurants, we find relatively few violations,” he said. “None of them are going to be perfect. We expect them to put forth a good effort and do what they can, and I think that’s what they all do.”
Rick’s American Cafe
Numerous Thursday bar-goers were surprised the numbers actually weren’t higher for the number of assaults and incidents at Rick’s American Cafe, which many said can get a bit “crazy.”
Kinesiology senior Rachel Elery said despite how “crazy” the bar can get, with raunchy dancing, making out, excessively drunk individuals and drinks flying everywhere, she loves going out to Rick’s.
“I think Rick’s has a stigma attached to it where that’s where people get out of hand,” Elery said, although she did not dispute the stigma.
Earlier, Elery said a bar experience is dependent on the type of people who frequent the bar.
Rick’s — which had the third-highest number of fake IDs caught at 59, and the second-highest number of assaults in the bar at four — had the highest number of disorderly conduct incidents recorded during 2012.
The nine incidents weren’t of high concern to Murphy, who said anything from someone lying about their age to a bar fight could be listed as “disorderly conduct.”
“I don’t think there’s a problem,” manager Mark Heff said. “It’s a college town. There’s always going to be kids trying to get into bars underage.”
The Peanut Barrel Restaurant
Communication junior Mary Pickens, who, on Thursday, stopped by The Peanut Barrel Restaurant for a bite, said she doesn’t consider the location one of East Lansing’s main bars for students.
She said the location is more of a “dinner and drinks” sort of place, as opposed to more party-like bars where shots might be the norm.
“It’s just a well-run place, and not as many people come here,” Pickens said. “This is where I come when it’s nice out.”
Although Peanut Barrel owner Joe Bell declined to comment, records for the restaurant cited two incidents in 2012.
Murphy said it’s possible the low numbers could correlate with the smaller capacity allowed there in comparison to other bars.
He said the bar typically has more older and local clientele than other bars, which draw large college crowds who might bring trouble with them.
Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub
Biochemistry and molecular biology junior Corinne Francisco said Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub is a classier bar and didn’t show concern at its high number of assaults compared to other East Lansing bars.
“Bars are probably safer than a party,” she said, adding she has seen serious fights and assaults at house parties. “At least at bars you have people taking care of you.”
She said she also was somewhat comforted by the fact that although Harper’s had the most reports of overly intoxicated individuals in the bar, at eight, they also turned away the highest number of people at their doors for being too intoxicated, at six.
Murphy agreed, stating over intoxication at the bar might not be because of generous bartenders, but rather the tendency for students to pre-drink before going out.
Co-owner Trisha Riley said when looking for over-intoxicated patrons, the staff looks out for traits including whether a person is slurring their speech or noticeably walking oddly.
“We’re happy to be fortunate that we have about 25 steps in the front,” she said. “Not letting them in is kind of easy to tell.”
Hospitality business senior Douglass Lofland said compared to where he comes from, in southeast Washington, D.C., everything in East Lansing seems a bit safer, including bars, such as Crunchy’s.
“They bring a different sort of crowd,” Lofland said. “It’s not usually like the rowdy, crazy drinkers.”
Lofland said the establishment does have potential for over intoxication with the several beers they carry with high alcohol content, but said they are particularly careful about cutting off patrons who drink these.
He said he’s had beers that had 11 percent alcohol content, and to his recollection only was allowed one.
General manager Mike Krueger said when it comes to drinking too much at any bar, it doesn’t mean they were served too much alcohol at the establishment.
Crunchy’s was not cited for any over-intoxication violations in 2012, although the business failed a sting operation and sold alcohol to a minor in August 2012.
He said people have plenty of other places to drink before coming to the bars, such as houses, fraternities and dorm rooms.
“You do the best you can to evaluate (the bar-goers) and keep people safe,” Krueger said.
“P.T.’s is great,” chemical engineering senior Allison Sutter said, although she was waiting in line to enter The Riveria Cafe Restaurant, or The Riv, during its Burgerama special Thursday.
Sutter said her favorite bar, although a bit smaller than others in the area, has a calmer atmosphere and does a good job making sure bar-goers are safe.
“They do a good job of making sure people (are) in check,” she said, adding she has seen bouncers kick people out who were getting out of hand. “It’s a lot less rowdy than, say, Rick’s.”
P.T.’s was the only bar cited with an over occupancy violation.
Owner Pat Riley declined to comment.
Psychology senior Dylan Vowell said although The Landshark isn’t his favorite bar in the city by a long shot, it is a popular spot for under-21 students because of their 18-and-up nights.
He said in the few times he has gone to the bar, he always has felt safe, despite one reported incident where an officer caught cocaine being sold at the establishment.
Vowell said the incident likely is a result of the bar being near a big college campus such as MSU, where he feels many students experiment with drugs.
Murphy said the bar can’t be cited or charged with any violation if cocaine was sold at the establishment, unless they were purposely allowing it to happen.
A Landshark representative did not respond to multiple attempts at contact for comment.
The Riviera Cafe, or The Riv
Elementary education junior Phillip Goeman, who waited in line with friends to grab a bite Thursday at Burgerama at The Riv, said he enjoys the bar and feels safe when he’s there.
“There’s a lot of open space,” Goeman said, adding the bar typically is not as crowded as others.
He said the bar doesn’t differ too much from others in the area, and over-intoxication shouldn’t be an issue, as people almost never go to Bugerama on their own.
“Your friends should be keeping an eye on you, too,” he said.
The second-highest number of over-intoxication incidents reported, three in 2012, happened at The Riv.
Two thefts occurred, putting The Riv tied for second with The Landshark.
Dublin Square Irish Pub
It was no news to numerous Thursday bar-goers that Dublin Square Irish Pub caught the highest number of fake IDs compared to any other East Lansing bar, at 101, according to records.
Elery said Dublin is more upscale than bars such as Rick’s, and she has known it to be more restrictive about who comes through the doors.
Vowell said the high number of IDs collected wasn’t surprising, as he actually was kept from entering at one point when he used a fake ID.
A Dublin bouncer also was slashed with a knife while manning the door in March 2012, according to the report.
Murphy said Dublin’s higher capacity likely plays a part in the higher number of fake IDs caught in comparison to other bars.
“Just going by the odds, if you put more people through your front door, you’re probably going to have more fake IDs,” he said. “If Dublin Square did not collect a number of fake IDs, I think it would be a concern.”
Dublin Square did not reply to multiple attempts at contact.