BANGOR, Maine — Harlow Street resident Karen Foley said she is used to the shouting, swearing and police presence in the parking lot across the street from her apartment.
“What I do not want to get used to is feeling unsafe outside my own home,” Foley, a Schoolhouse Apartments resident who works at the University of Maine and writes a blog for the Bangor Daily News, said at a Jan. 28 City Council meeting as she complained about problems stemming from a nightclub parking lot.
“It’s not that we don’t want this business, it’s that this isn’t the place for it,” Foley said.
The issue of residents frustrated with boisterous patrons outside Harlow Street nightclubs surfaced again during the recent council meeting, prompting the council to postpone a vote on the renewal of Diamonds Gentleman’s Club’s special amusement license.
Diamonds and the Half Acre Nightclub are located at 190 Harlow St., directly across from the 60-unit Schoolhouse Apartments. When both clubs shut down around 1 a.m., patrons take to the parking lots and sometimes loiter, making noise and raising the ire of residents and landlords in the neighborhood.
City officials expressed concerns with the behavior of patrons outside the clubs back in November. Those complaints prompted meetings between city officials and the representatives of the clubs, as well as meetings between club owners and area property owners and landlords.
The debate sparked up again during the Jan. 28 council meeting, when Kathy Baldacci, the owner of Baldacci Associates, the managing agency for Schoolhouse Apartments, stepped up to the podium to give public comment in advance of a vote on Diamonds’ special amusement license renewal.
“It’s a bad fit to have [these clubs] across the street from our lovely old building,” Baldacci said. “It’s become a real nightmare for the tenants. It’s like a flashmob when the other bars start to close down at midnight. The music stops, they all move out to Harlow Street.”
Baldacci also raised concerns with the council after Diva’s Gentlemen’s Club relocated to 190 Harlow St. in 2008. Diva’s closed in 2011 and Diamonds opened in its place in February 2012. She said the noise from the parking lot across the street is preventing her from filling vacancies in her building and might be driving some tenants away.
Since November, Jimmy Ellis, who represents Diamonds’ ownership group, Arayos LLC, has met with property owners, including Baldacci, as well as city officials, including interim Police Chief Peter Arno and Lt. Mark Hathaway, to try to come up with solutions that might lessen late-night parking lot noise.
During those meetings, Ellis gave his cellphone number to the apartment managers, telling them it’s “always on” and advising them to call any time if there are issues. Ellis also contacted Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., which came in to install more lights in the parking lot and brighten up the area in an attempt to get people to move along faster.
Ellis believes that many of the problems with rowdy patrons outside could be mitigated by a “soft closing,” which would mean he could keep the club open until around 3 a.m., but continue to hold last call at 1 a.m, 30 minutes before the club closes. Ellis said that would prompt people to filter out throughout the early morning rather than all rush out at once or at least would give patrons a chance to sober up before leaving.
“I don’t have any answers, except that I really want you to think more about renewing this license,” Baldacci said.
Based on concerns raised by Baldacci and Foley, the council decided to put off the vote on the special amusement license renewal until Feb. 11, which is the next regular council meeting scheduled before the current license expires Feb. 22.
Ellis said after the council meeting that he believed the councilors were just being “cautious,” and that he would continue to work with the city to find a solution that will reduce disturbances outside the venue.
He said he met with the police chief again two days after the council meeting and worked out an agreement that will put a police officer in the parking lot from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on certain nights.
“We’re going to make it work,” Ellis said. “It is so so difficult in that parking lot in a mixed-use area. It makes it tough on everybody.”