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Dancing, 911 calls get Leather District lounge hauled in for hearing

Firmin, Feaster, Ciccolo, Joyce

Eddie Firmin, Joseph Feaster, Robert Ciccolo and Kathleen Joyce in Zoom hearing.

City licensing head Kathleen Joyce is considering cutting back closing time at Savvor, 180 Lincoln St. - and could even revoke its entertainment license - over a string of late-night incidents that the local police captain says is draining his resources when he's already got the Theater District and Faneuil Hall Marketplace to worry about.

At a hearing over six citations issued to the lounge and a list of 911 calls about Lincoln Street over the past year, A-1 Capt. Robert Ciccolo said Savvor now sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise sleepy Leather District at night.

"The Leather District as a whole has a number of restaurants and we almost never get any calls for them," Ciccolo said. In contrast, there have been so many calls related to Savvor he now has to station a cruiser there at closing time.

Most recently, he said that on Sept. 11, he and other officers responded to a report of a fight at the lounge entrance and, after they arrested three women, one on charges she attacked a responding officer, went inside to find the place packed with tables pushed to the walls, no evidence of food service or even silverware on them and people "elbow to elbow," many of them dancing, in violation of both its lease and its entertainment license, which prohibit dancing.

Savvor owner Eddie Firmin denied there was dancing going on, which would make the place a nightclub, saying, yes, people may have been standing, and maybe even some were swaying to the music, but there was no outright dancing going on. He said he and his staff didn't push any tables back, that he serves food until 1 a.m. - and has even been featured on Phantom Gourmet.

Firmin blamed nearby residents for calling 911 for the least little thing because they are, for some reason, now out to get him.

Firmin's attorney, Joseph Feaster, said it's unfair to blame his client for being located in a nexus of trouble, surrounded by the rest of Lincoln Street, Kingston Street, Chinatown and South Station. He said many of the calls about Lincoln Street have nothing at all to do with Savvor and that even some of the calls for which police issued citations to the lounge may not have involved it - for several of the incidents, police acknowledged they did not ask people if they had been at Savvor before the incidents.

In addition to the Sept. 11 fight and dancing, incidents covered in the hearing:

April 25: An Asian-American man parked near some Black people were hanging out in front of the Corner Pub next door, which sparked an argument that involved the liberal use of slurs by both parties, after which the man began punching the women in the group, which he stopped when one of the men went to his own car, got out a gun and fired several rounds down Lincoln Street as a warning. The shooter fled, and the Asian-American man ran into the Corner Pub. The Boston Licensing Board, which Joyce also chairs, and which deals with liquor and food-serving issues, had earlier determined Savvor was not to blame for the incident.

April 27: An argument inside the club seemed to end when Savvor staffers separated the two parties and escorted one couple out the back to their car, but then they returned and this time told police somebody had pulled a gun on them inside. Firmin said the first he heard the gun claim was when police entered the club to ask him about it.

July 21: Large fight outside the lounge entrance, in which one woman allegedly punched another in the face; the assailant fled, then the punched woman began berating police, who then had to deal with a large fight about 150 yards down the street. Police did not ascertain if either of the initial fight women had been inside Savvor.

July 31: A couple said they were assaulted and the woman robbed of her phone, debit cards and license in a fight outside Savvor's entrance, although police found them around the corner at Beach and Tufts streets.

Aug. 14, 12:18 a.m: A man called police to say a bouncer had punched and pushed him after the man was refused admittance because he would not take off his hat, which would violate the lounge's no-hat policy. Firmin said the guy is a known trouble maker, who often tries to start stuff at Savvor. In response to a question from Feaster, one of the responding officers acknowledged the man showed no bruises, redness or any other signs of actually getting punched.

Aug. 14, 2:20 a.m: Large group of apparently drunk people on the sidewalk in front of the Corner Pub. Trouble started when some women tried to keep their drunk friend from driving her boyfriend's car away; when. police tried to get her out of the car, the boyfriend grew irate at the cops and he jumped in the car and drove away. Joyce stopped an officer from continuing a long report on the incident, which ultimately involved gunfire in Chinatown and an arrest at Melnea Cass Boulevard because that had nothing to do with Lincoln Street.

Joyce told Firmin and Feaster she has two main concerns to consider: One is the high numbers of A-1 cops who have to keep responding to Savvor; the other is the Sept. 11 incident that she said sure sounded like Savvor was being run as a nightclub, which has its own unique set of issues. She said she was surprised to go online and find ads for events at Savvor that promised dancing, when Savvor is not a club where dancing is allowed, such as this one:

Ad for brunch and dancing at Savvor

Firmin said BVD is just a name for some of his employees. He seemed surprised at ads promoting dancing - as well as a mask-free experience, which would be a separate violation of city rules, which requires mask whenever patrons are not at their tables.

But he said that, in general, he is not operating Savvor any differently than he has since he first opened eight years ago and reiterated that dancing is not allowed. He said he attended a neighborhood meeting about a month ago with Ciccolo and City Councilor Ed Flynn and that officials urged residents to call 911 if they see or hear trouble on Lincoln Street.

Firmin said he did not know why people in the neighborhood "are trying to shut my business down," especially because, he said, he's not doing anything different from some other places in the city, including the W in the Theater District and the Lincoln Tavern in South Boston.

Pointing to the six citations, Feaster said it was wrong to characterize the place as a trouble spot. "To say there is a large volume [of calls], the record just doesn't demonstrate that."

Joyce, however, said the issue is not what's happening at the W, but at Savvor, and that, in any case, "I don't know if the others have same number of 911 calls."

She added that, although it will not affect her decision based on the day's hearing, Firmin needs to tell his employees to stop advertising that patrons no longer have to wear masks.

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Comments

Dancing should definitely be allowed anytine anywhere. No judgment. Just get up and move to your beat to feel better. Any other problems that happen are caused by people who can't drink alcohol wothout it tirning them into a jerk who causes shit like this to happen.

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Voting closed 39

But the last time it was reverend who tried to stop a small town from dancing. Ultimately it ended well for everyone but alas in this scenario Ren McCormick is not walking through that door to help bring people together.

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Patrons aren't being told by the government "hey, no dancing!"

But the restaurant isn't allowed to secretly be a nightclub.

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…. illicit nightclub and getting patrons dangerously drunk.

Nobody is being told they can’t dance.

It sound to me like the neighbors and the police captain have legitimate complaints.

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Really? A lot of people tell me I can't dance. . .

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Hahaha!

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There are probably some good reasons to regulate dancing separately from restaurants or lounges (as opposed to just banning it outright).

Think public safety: Evacuating a large, crowded room full of dancing people in an emergency likely has to be done differently than evacuating people sitting at tables. And it might take different measures to ensure that your dance floor isn't overcrowded (see evacuation in an emergency) than a room full of tables and chairs.

It's been nearly 80 years since the Cocoanut Grove fire, but Boston remains pretty sensitive to such things.

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As long as the building wasn't exceeding the the occupancy limit set by the fire department, wouldn't an open dance floor be easier to evacuate compared to a restaurant crowded with tables and chairs?

If anything, the argument would be that an open dance floor would be more prone to a mass shooting like Pulse, not more prone to a fire like Cocoanut Grove.

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…. would be more open space. More people could enter and exceed the fire dept limits. Thus a need for more or wider exits.
If the health and safety regulations require a different permit for a nightclub as opposed to a sit down restaurant, then I’m gonna trust the experts to have good reasons for this.

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Bostons Municipal departments are a croneyfied mess

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it's illegal.”

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No dancing with alcohol? Because of the "people, places and things" triggers?

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One time I was supervising an AA/NA group at a brain injury inpatient rehab center where I worked. As we went through the materials, I asked "what do we call people, places or things that may remind us of past behaviors?"

A gentleman in the group, who, mind you, attended AA/NA several times per week, raised his hand very excitedly and when I called on him proudly and carefully stated "n-n-n-nouns."

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and snippets of English grammar lessons from grade school.

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Pull the license already! This idiot owner will just continue to claim "people are out to get him" going forward. Meanwhile, every Boston resident is essentially subsidizing all the calls to BPD.

There are literally dozens of restaurants in Boston that would love a liquor license and would happily abide by the rules.

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Liquor license is textbook systemic racism.

It reinforces the systemic disadvantage black people had when they simply could not get a liquor license. It also is complicit in exploiting the racial wealth gap in Boston ($247k to $8) as a means to stifle black entrepreneurship.

For at least the last 30 years the cap has served no other purpose than to protect the investments of white business owners and to discourage black people for congregating socially.

White people in Boston know if they do not like a business that caters to black and latino people they can simply dial 911 until it disappears.

Can anyone name ONE (1)black-owned nightclub in Boston? One? Anyone?

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In Mattapan.

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Okay, not exactly what I was looking for but okay. 1 on the literal city limit.

Does anyone else think this is connected to Liquor licensing or neighborhood groups or the zoning board? Are there no connections to be made there? this situation is not that at all?

Does the zoning board keep track of racial discrimination? How many complaints are filed against business owners by their race? If not, why not?

Isn't Macumba the same club that the mayors office didn't want to let have bottle service? https://www.universalhub.com/2015/no-bottle-service-mattapan-square-club...

I mean, honestly? This is a very real thing going on here.

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Nobody was saying "let's make sure Blacks don't get licenses," although the net effect was the same, so yes, it's a form of systemic racism, one that has its roots in anti-Irish bigotry from decades ago.

There is a set number of liquor license in Boston, with the number set by the state legislature (other towns may have more discretion, but the legislature keeps refusing to let Boston do what it wants, because back after Prohibition, the Brahmins didn't want to let the Irish run wild or something; it was only after Marty Walsh got into office that they at least finally let the mayor appoint members of the licensing board, before then, they were appointed by the governor).

When Boston went into the current building boom, national chains with tons of money began buying up liquor licenses for outlets downtown and along the waterfront. With a set number of licenses, that meant the price of a liquor license skyrocketed, to well over $300,000. So, no surprise, restaurants and bars in outer neighborhoods sold their licenses and shut down: Packy Connors, the Breezeway and the Avenue Tavern, all on Blue Hill Avenue are no more.

Ayanna Pressley tried to do something about that: She convinced first her fellow councilors and then the state legislature to give Boston more liquor licenses, with most meant for outlying neighborhoods (she initially proposed just Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, the legislature added Boston "main street" districts, which include some places you might not think would need more licenses, like Roslindale Square and Centre Street in West Roxbury, although one of the first places to get one of the new licenses was in Roslindale Square).

It worked: Dorchester and Roxbury got new restaurants with affordable liquor licenses (but which unlike the older ones could not be resold but had to be given back to the city should the holder close up). Mattapan, though, didn't get any new places with licenses.

It wasn't enough: The city asked for more of these licenses. But, of course, somebody, in this case, Frank Baker and Bill Linehan, couldn't leave well enough alone: On top of the neighborhood licenses, they wanted a new set of sort of overall licenses for giant new developments (like Seaport Square and the addition to South Bay) so the development would get one license and could then add as many restaurants able to serve liquor as it liked; Logan Airport actually has system like that.

But whether they were back to reasserting their right to lord it over Boston or because they didn't like the idea of those uber-licenses, the legislature never did anything with the proposal.

The pandemic, of course, has closed numerous restaurants. Is it enough to lower the price of licenses to make them affordable to people just starting out with restaurants in the outer neighborhoods? I guess we'll find out.

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Boston proper other than savvor

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Who researches the race of the owner before visiting a nightclub?

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Liquor licenses are systemic racism, but it did not start with BIPOC. The Irish were pub culture, Italians a Cafe culture, a little liqueur in that coffee?
Many variations on this, non WASP groups would meet, have a drink and discuss..politics. Expensive liscencing could stop this activity. Prohibition was for same reason, and it was anti Catholic as wine part of Mass.
History is interesting, read some.

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...a crowded nightclub during a pandemic. Mainly because I have an opportunity to buy the Brooklyn Bridge dirt-cheap they might be interested in.

For the record, I do agree with the anon above that there should be no regulations against dancing per se. That's just ridiculous.

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…. you need a space designed for the safety of the patrons. You need security. You need to be inspected, approved and licensed.
Remember Coconut Grove. Remember The Station.

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A reasonable point, I had not thought of that.

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Try 1) not lying to government and 2) not having the audacity to get a police officer to have to police anything.

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Notice many talk about dancing and it being operated more as an after hours club than a restaurant. Licensing aside, if they want to run a club then they need the security staff to support it.

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Firmin said BVD is just a name for some of his employees.

https://www.bvdboston.com/

First Google hit. Established contract promotion firm. Government is nefarious and ignorant, but Christ, they can perform basic search engine functions.

I don't want government picking winners, but I'd be happy to see them pick against this dumb (expletive).

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Yet another problem.

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Ahhh Boston.

I've been to the events at Savvor, great times and needed for the black professionals in the city.

The Kathleen Joyces of the world and stodgy (white) residents of the area looking to shut down one of the 9 black businesses with a liquor license in Boston. Sad, notice how none of this is happening inside Savior...

“No dancing allowed”? What is this the 1670s?

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It's about the drunk patrons acting like a-holes at closing time. Despite the protestations of innocense, licensed establishments are responsible what their patrons do in the vicinity.

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It IS about the dancing. Of those 6 times the cops came, 4 or 5 of them had nothing to do with this establishment.

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… is taking advantage of a minority by operating an unsafe venue and thought he’d get away with it because no one would care.

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Boston: I wish we didn’t have a racist rep and we mri welcoming to black people

Also Boston:

-awards .03 % of liquor license to black people (23% of the city)

- doesn’t support its first black mayor, or any of the black candidates in a majority-black field

-complains about venues that cater to black people (Savvor, Monroe in Cambridge)

-Asian man call black woken racial slur before punching them in the

- Roxbury Prep called racial slurs in fight Georgetown, MA

-Man murders 2 black people in hate crime in Belmont

- Cops called in Cambridge couple picking apples

- Cam Newton cut in favor of a rookie with 3 DUIs before he ever played a pro game

Boston: none of the incidents are necessarily due to racist though dude- I don’t get the rep.

White people: a big (maybe the biggest part) of at least appearing not racist is not trying to stamp out the few black cultural outlets Boston has for black people.

If you keep trying to tell black people whats racist and what’s not you just erode your credibility to everyone with a clue. As a group you have no credibility in regards to not being racist or having an understanding of what’s racism. Plenty establishments do this in the Seaport and South Boston. I’ve been to them. Yet none of them get brought before the licensing board (except for the one Latino owned restaurant, naturally..)

Fermin is alluding to racism because if you mention racism to white people (like Joyce and Ciccolo) they simply crack the whip that much harder to punish you and keep you in your place.

A major part of black life is considering what ways/how much white people will scorn you or derail you for trying to get a fraction of what they have for themselves.

was Cam Newton’s cut racism, no. But after Kyrie and Kemba departure it’s very bad optics to Black people nationwide. If you don’t CARE about those things then you don’t really care about Boston’s image and rep in regards to race. This is that.

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Thank you, it was annoying to see no discussion of this very obvious angle. There's a lot of security everytime I've visited Savvor and I hope they are allowed to remain as it's much needed.

If there were more options for Black folk we* wouldn't all go to the same place and many of these things would cease to be an issue.

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1. Savvor can no longer have RnB Brunch and Day Party's
2. Black entrepreneurs and promoters see this
3. Black entrepreneurs and promoters are hesitant to operate in Boston
4. Eventually a restaurant notices there's a void to be filled in the market, start running these events. Tons of black people flood to one of the only options for them in the Metro- it gets hectic.
5. That restaurant gets harassed and has to stop holding these events.
6. Black people get fed up with the social scene, move
7. They run and tell black people in their new city how exclusionary and puritan Boston was
8. Boston's rep is furthered for being racist
9. White Bostonians- indifferent and oblivious
10. The beat goes on.

2Twenty2 friend street was one option in the area that hosted black events it recently closed. Society on High sed to host them too. This date back to Buzz Nightclub, Biarritz Lounge, Conneleys on Tremont Street etc etc.

PS. sorry, the double murder hate crime was in Watertown. The Road rage murder of a black ma complete with racial slurs was a few months earlier in Belmont. Silly me

also forgot, .1% of city contracts go to black people

(11. "WHY DOES BOSTON HAVE A RACIST REPUTATION??? UGH!")

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*road rage murder of a black man

P.S.

More proof-from 2011

Boston Club Apologizes For Harvard-Yale Racial Incident:

https://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/02/25/boston-club-apologizes-for-harvar...

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Glad you brought up Society on High and 2Twenty2. These places closed due to the crowd they attracted. No business can survive after FOUR people get stabbed outside the bar.

Btw, 2Twenty2 is reopening on Batterymarch St

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Thank you for this response - it exactly summarizes why this issue can't be looked at in a vacuum of simply stating tHeY'rE nOt cOmPlYiNg!!!!!1!! This is a venue that caters to black people, and certainly one of the few downtown. If Boston ever wants to work to move past its reputation as a racist city, make the conscious choice to work with this business and find an agreeable solution for all people involved, including the owners, patrons, police, neighbors and licensing department, rather than being so quick to shut it down.

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1 place with 6 police calls in a month.
6 caucasian owned places with 1 police call each in a nite.

if there were more black owned places, everyone (the good and the bad) wouldnt all have to congregate at the only available spot.

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He’s going to be shocked to read his google reviews!

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He's not wrong about Lincoln.

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Can anyone name ONE (1) black-owned nightclub in Boston? One?

Anyone?

Anyone wanna take a few guesses as to why that may be?

Would anyone like to calculate the ratio of white-owned nightclubs per white Bostonian to black-owned nightclubs per black Bostonian?

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i dont understand why they cant just be a nite-club ?

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They absolutely could be a club. However, they would have to reapply to operate as one as clubs have requirements that are distinct from restaurants. I believe it generally comes down to enhanced security and noise considerations, things which are not common issues with pure restaurants.

One thing I definitely don't know is if they'd have to reapply for a liquor license if they reclassify. If so, I'd imagine that's a deal breaker.

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there are multiple deal breakers. For this reason, no black person owns a nightclub in Boston. not a one.

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kick off steam. gonna be a life sciences complex in five minutes anyway.

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That’s an impeccable reference if ever I saw one.

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If you want to go to a sketchy dive bar, that would be it. What an odd place…

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a police captain of a precinct is monitoring a dancefloor like: hes tapping his toe, that constitutes dancing, i'm shutting this place down ! ?

there must be cheaper ways for city hall to give this owner the tools and paperwork to operate legally so that his demographic can be happy without disrupting the others.

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Sorry if I didn't make the sequence of events clear. Here's what happened, based on the testimony at yesterday's hearing:

The initial call was for a fight outside Savvor - by a cop who was outside as part of what is now a routine detail due to the previous incidents.

Three women were fighting at the door, and one threw a drink (in a plastic cup) at another. The cop tried to break things up and instead one of the women went after the cop, to the point of throwing a punch (she missed) and then somehow managing to push the officer to the ground.

That's what brought much of A-1 running, including Ciccolo, the district captain, who happened to be working a night shift.

Once police respond to a call like that at a licensed establishment, it's routine for a police supervisor on scene to go inside to do a "licensed premise inspection." So Ciccolo did - bringing four officers in with him (with their bodycams on). And that's when he spotted what he says looked like a nightclub and ordered the place shut.

So, no, the A-1 captain is not just standing there like some high-school teacher making sure there's enough space between dancers.

One other thing about that incident that came up yesterday that I left out of my original story: Ciccolo mentioned that when he ordered the lounge shut for the night, and lounge workers began telling people to leave, many people left with drinks still in their hands.

After he said that, Firmin's lawyer, Feaster, made a crack about how he realizes Boston isn't Bourbon Street and then asked the captain whether it's illegal for people to leave with drinks.

Ciccolo acknowledged that, yes, public drinking is a crime in Boston, but added that he and his officers were trying to break up the fight outside and get people inside to disperse, and that going after people at that point for leaving with drinks, "I think that would probably not count as de-escalating," and so he used his discretion to let them go.

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my original post was hyperbole. i'm glad the captain decided to lighten up about the public drinking.

i want city hall to give these people the opportunity to operate fully so that these shenanigans would be less frequent (at this point they seem to be half-assedly posing as a restaurant /slash/ clandestine speak-easy).

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