The Boston Licensing Board is considering rolling back closing time at La Gran Manzana in Central Square and Bohemios and Billares Colombia on Bennington Street from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m. because of repeated problems, including fights, car crashes and OUI arrests in the hour before they now close.
Just today, the board - which set June 5 for a hearing on the possibility - held hearings on closing-time fights at La Gran Manzana and Bohemios. At the end of one of the hearings, a BPD officer who regularly patrols the area at closing time said the area around the two restaurants and one billiard hall have become chronic problems for police and the neighborhood, with patrons flocking to the area after 1 a.m. - when the bars in Chelsea close - causing massive parking and traffic problems as well as public-safety issues in the form of fights and drunken patrons getting into crashes, sometimes in the middle of the street, where they just leave their cars and flee on foot.
The hearing on La Gran Manzana, on an incident Nov. 12 offered such diverging testimony between police and a restaurant bartender that board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini at one point stopped the bartender and reminded her she was testifying under oath.
According to police, owner Yoni Hernandez slapped and hit his girlfriend as he dragged her into a restroom during a fight shortly after closing. He also pulled out a clump of hair, which one officer testified he found on the floor.
Officers, who said they responded around 2:35 a.m. after getting a 911 call about domestic violence inside the restaurant, said they had a hard time at first communicating with workers, because none of them spoke English and neither of the responding officers spoke Spanish. But one worker pulled an officer aside and used a translator app on her phone to write out what had happened. One officer said a woman working at the bar also told him about the fight and the dragging and the hair.
But that bartender, speaking through an interpreter, today denied ever telling the officer anything. She said the woman was not the owner's girlfriend, but an occasional customer who was upset she had lost a ring and who didn't want to leave a closing because she wanted to look for it. She denied the woman had been dragged anywhere, let alone into a restroom by the owner for a beating and denied ever telling any officer any such thing - which is when Pulgini stopped her to remind her that she had sworn to tell the truth under penalties of law.
"I did observe the hair on the floor," the officer told the board when she was done.
After the bartender then repeated her account that the woman in question was just a customer upset about a ring who left with all her hair, Pulgini called a halt to the hearing for three weeks and ordered both police and the restaurant to produce everybody who was there that evening.
The Bohemios hearing also involved differing stories by police and restaurant workers over whether a woman was choked and if so whether the choker was her boyfriend, but the focus was on a bouncer who got punched in the face during a May 7 incident.
According to police officers patrolling the area, around 1:45 a.m., they spotted a flashing light - used to summon police - outside the restaurant. On arrival, they found six people brawling - a restaurant bouncer, three guys attacking him and two guys helping him fend them off.
Police say that their investigation showed the fight had started inside when the bouncer went to the aid of a bartender who had been thrown up against a wall by a guy who was choking her, and that the guy and two of his pals went after him. Police told the board the initial attacker was the bartender's boyfriend and that before choking his girlfriend, they had gotten into an argument because he'd shown up with two other women and started dancing with them.
Restaurant managers, though, denied any choking occurred, saying the man had only put his arm around the woman's neck in a boyfriendish way to escort her away.
Pulgini also continued this hearing until June 5.