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:
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.