Portland council requires cameras outside Bayside bar

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PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday approved an 18-month contract that includes raises for police officers.

But much of the council’s meeting was spent discussing a Bayside bar.

Rockin’ Rickey’s Tavern, 94 Portland St., received its liquor license from the City Council, but only after being required to install outdoor surveillance cameras to discourage illicit activity.

After the meeting, Edward Simmons, the bar’s operations manager for the last 20 years, said the requirement unfairly singles out his establishment in a neighborhood that has widespread problems with drunks, prostitutes and drug dealers.

“It doesn’t seem right to me,” said Simmons, who estimated the surveillance equipment alone would cost about $1,500.

Simmons, who provided a letter of support from the owner of neighboring Bintliff’s American Cafe, has 60 days to install a camera facing up Mechanic Street, which some neighbors said is where drunks, prostitutes and drug peddlers have been making problems. Another camera must be installed in front of the tavern on Portland Street.

The requirement was attached to the bar’s entertainment license after a half dozen residents, mostly from Back Bay Towers, complained about bar patrons harassing residents, urinating and vomiting in public, and passing out in the bushes. 

“The fact of the matter is, this place is poisoning the neighborhood,” said Andrew Hopkins Lyle, who has lived next to the bar for five years. “I really feel like things have gotten out of control.”

Eric Flynn, a Back Bay Tower resident, said he had petition signed by 100 people calling for denial of the tavern’s liquor license.

“It’s a rough enough area,” Flynn said of Bayside. “(Rockin’ Rickey’s) certainly doesn’t (help).”

Police Lt. Gary Hutchinson reported a year’s worth of data to the council, noting a variety of violations in the area. Police did not recommend denying the bar’s liquor license, he said, since the problems could not be pinned on Rickey’s Tavern.

Also, Hutchinson said 30 police inspections did not find evidence of over-serving or serving under-aged patrons.

Tavern supporters noted that Bubba’s Sulky Lounge is also in the neighborhood, along with a convenience store that sells alcohol at a low cost near Preble Street Resource Center.

Councilor John Anton said he asked that Rockin’ Rickey’s liquor license be placed on a council agenda, so owners would engage city officials and neighbors in a conversation about stemming the problems in Bayside.

Simmons, a founding member of the Bayside Neighborhood Association’s Neighborhood Watch, said he attended a series of neighborhood meetings, while those who complained did not.

Simmons said he noticed an increase in illicit activity last summer and prohibited bar patrons from hanging out in a rear parking lot. He also requested and received more police patrols, which seem to have stemmed some of the problems, he said.

Simmons said he proposed the cameras at neighborhood meetings, but claimed the neighbors were not enthusiastic about them.

Councilor Edward Suslovic, however, suggested requiring the cameras, after police said the bar was doing everything it could to deal with the issues, with the exception of adding cameras.

The measure passed 5-4, with Mayor Nicholas Mavodones and Councilors Dory Waxman, John Coyne and Jill Duson opposed.

Anton suggested engaging Bubba’s Sulky Lounge in a similar process when its entertainment license expires in February. And Duson suggested expanding the discussion to include the Preble Street Resource Center and Dyer’s Variety Store.

“That piece of the conversation needs to be had,” Duson said.

Police contract

In other business, councilors unanimously approved an 18-month contract with the Police Benevolent Association, which represents 125 police officers and detectives.

The contract grants a 1.5 percent raise in the first year, which will cost the city $132,000. There will be a 1 percent raise in the final six months of the contract, costing $28,500.

City Manager Joe Gray said the contract was within the council’s guidelines.

“It does not change the budget,” Gray said.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net