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Bars, billiard parlor in East Boston's Central Square could have hours cut back over closing-time problems

The Boston Licensing Board decides Thursday whether to roll back closing time from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m. for Bohemios and Billares Colombia on Bennington Street and La Gran Manzana, Central Square, after a hearing today at which A-7 Capt. Kelley McCormick and Sgt. Tlaloc Cutroneo testified they are fed up with babysitting an area that for two hours every night fills up with drinkers stumbling around, getting into fights, getting mugged, urinating in a parking lot and just generally causing a ruckus that is a headache for residents of the dense area.

A fourth bar, La Terraza on Bennington Street, will be summoned into City Hall for a similar hearing.

McCormick said that between Jan. 1 and May 24 of this year, BPD officers have responded 151 times to the short stretch. While not all of the incidents were related directly to the bars and billiards hall, he said it's the only part of East Boston that requires such frequent responses between 1 a.m. - when the bars in Chelsea, Revere, Winthrop and other parts of East Boston close - and 3 a.m. And that's because people leave those other bars and head for Central Square for their last call, he said.

"It's eating up all my [nighttime] resources," McCormick said. "I don't see problems anywhere else [in East Boston]. It's drawing in so many people, and causing so many problems."

In 51 of the instances, two officers simply positioned themselves outside the bar around 2 a.m., knowing they would probably find trouble waiting. McCormick said 11 of the calls were "maximum" calls serious enough to call in every single active East Boston officer and supervisor; another 28 required "multiple units" for fights and assaults. And he said the area's been a problem for his district - and its residents - in the six years he's been in East Boston.

His officers testified that unlike in the Theater District, the establishment's bouncers do little or nothing to move customers along after last call, instead just letting them congregate on the street and forcing police to quell problems that sometimes erupt into bloody brawls.

Lawyers for the three establishments, which were called up in separate hearings, each said their clients had decentish licensing records and that if there was a pattern of problems, it was probably due to the other establishments.

And they said that if their clients were forced to shut at 1, that would only push the problems somewhere else.

McCormick said that's a risk he's willing to take. "I don't get 150 calls from Orient Heights," or from anywhere else in the neighborhood, he said.

All three lawyers also objected to the list of the 151 calls that police gave them only as their hearings started - they said that there was no way they could rebut a list they'd never seen before that listed incidents in tiny type with obscure police acronyms.

In a separate hearing today, police tangled with the management of La Manzana over a Nov. 12 incident in which police arrested owner Yoni Hernandez on domestic assault-and-battery charges for dragging and ripping out the hair of a woman they said other workers told them - one by using Google Translate on her phone - was his girlfriend.

But Hernandez denied attacking anyone that night or even knowing the woman very well - he said she had only worked for him two or three days - and denied that he had any sort of romantic relationship with her. A bartender whom police said told them that night that the two were involved today denied ever telling the police anything.

Police produced a booking document in which Hernandez allegedly listed the woman as his ex-wife, but Hernandez denied telling booking officers that and said he had no idea how the woman's name wound up on the document.

"Either he's perjuring himself [now] or he's perjured himself in the criminal case, and now he's accusing my officers of lying," McCormick said. Hernandez's attorney, Andrew Upton, denied that and said the question was how the woman's name wound up on the booking form when his client never had a relationship with her.

Prosecutors dropped the charges against him because the woman - originally from Colombia - has since disappeared. Upton strongly, and preemptively, objected to any accusation that Hernandez had anything to do with the woman's disappearance.

The board will also decide Thursday whether to take any action in that case.

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If the officers are sick of patrolling that area, then why don't they just quit their jobs, or ask to be reassigned?

EDIT: An acquaintance tells me that Kelley is a fine officer otherwise. Wish he came across a little less bent in this hearing.

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Is commentary at Licensing Board hearings sworn testimony under oath? If not, Capt. McCormick is recklessly talking some trash here. Whether this Hernandez guy is a hoodlum or not.

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In order to testify at a licensing-board hearing, you have to be sworn in, just like in court.

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UHub should send a roving reporter to Central Square at 2 AM to do interviews.

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" And that's because people leave those other bars and head for Central Square for their last call, he said."

Eliminate last call and your problems are solved.

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Caused by Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop.

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Yeah, I am actually all for people staying in the bars and either blacking out or trickling away in their own time.

The sudden burst of activity seems to be the main problem. Bars would be less prone to overserving if the problem remained indoors and directed its belligerence at the staff and other customers.

This just smacks of a disingenuous "what? We stopped serving at 2, now it's the neighborhood's problem" attitude from the bar owners.

Be better neighbors and nobody will need to regulate you.

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