A Theater District pizza place that stays open after the bars shut down on weekend nights faces possible penalties after fed-up police said they were tired of cleaning up the human, cardboard and cheesy messes left behind by its customers.
The Boston Licensing Board decides Thursday what action, if any, to take against New York Pizza on Tremont Street for a Dec. 1 incident involving up to 200 people on the sidewalk that ended with a particularly obnoxious customer pepper-sprayed and under arrest - and the street covered in pizza boxes, paper plates and slices of pizza.
A police officer and sergeant told the board that after the bars closed that night, they found "a large, unruly intoxicated crowd" clogging up the sidewalk on both sides between Boylston and Stuart, pizza-chomping customers in cars blocking a left-turn lane on Tremont and about 10 or 15 customers locked inside the small take-out place - where a worker would unlock the door, let one out and then let somebody else in.
In the line, anxious would-be eaters grew increasingly restive and police had to break up several scuffles and arguments. One man told by police to leave the scene refused and instead tried to plow his way through the mob, which led to a confrontation in which he wound up pepper sprayed after allegeldy attacking an officer. Police said they had trouble just getting to New York Pizza's front door to try to talk to owner Stephen Axiotis that night and demand he do something about the problem.
Police told the board they had given Axiotis several warning in the past about post-bar-closing issues and that they had made suggestions to him, including hiring a staffer to direct people outside into a single line, rather than letting them mass up in an impenetrable human clot on the sidewalk.
Axiotis's lawyer, Thomas Finnerty, Jr., pleaded for mercy from the board for what he said were issues beyond the control of Axiotis, whom he described as a kind-hearted business owner doing his part to reduce drunk driving in a district rife with bars that all get out at the same exact time. New York Pizza, he declared, was "a haven and a beacon in an area where you can get something to eat, a chance to sober up before you drive somewhere else. ... It's the only place (in the area late at night) to get something to eat without alcohol. He's here to serve the community."
Finnerty said that since the incident, Axiotis has hired an outdoor security person and that he has somebody who lives in the building to clean up trash. Police told the board things have improved considerably since.