Late-night incidents at a Main Street restaurant and bar over the years led the East Aurora Village Board to have the owner attend a public hearing to discuss business operations.
During a public hearing on Nov. 7, Rookies Sports Bar and Grill owner Mike Martinez was asked questions about hours of operation, underage drinking and what he and his staff are doing to limit calls to the police department.
The board also reviewed the special use permit for the business, approved in 2016, to see if the business was following those guidelines. Village Administrator Cathie Thomas did say that it appeared Rookies was staying open until 4 a.m. instead of the 2 a.m. that was approved in the special use permit, and patrons who leave the establishment have been involved in fights or public urination on neighboring businesses.
“There’s no doubt in my mind this is a more active bar in the community for my department,” East Aurora Police Chief Shane Krieger said.
He noted that in five years the department responded to at least 18 calls at Rookies. They ranged from fights to medical emergency calls. He did say the calls have decreased in recent months. He also asked if Martinez had a license scanner that could be used to determine if someone entering the bar is of age. Martinez said it broke, but would talk to Krieger after to find out what he should buy to replace it.
Martinez said he and his staff have been working to address the concerns. He has told employees to clean up around the building after people leave, a spotlight was added to shine on the neighboring parking lot so people do not urinate on it, and there are security guards on weekends who manage problems. But he said much of it happens when patrons leave his business, and there was a discussion about how much control the staff had over people who leave the premises.
“I do think a lot of the issues is that your patrons – which doesn’t have anything to do with you – are using property adjacent to you that causes more issues and more of a spotlight on you,” Krieger said in agreement with Martinez.
Sarah Eschborn, who owns Sarah Ann’s Salon and Spa, which is next to Rookies, complimented the work by Martinez and his employees to clean up each night after the bar closes. She said her business has cameras on the outside and she can see that they are doing the work. Eschborn said she has talked with Martinez over the years and thought he was doing the best job he could in keeping the area clean.
The businesses to the west of Rookies did list their concerns about how patrons and staff at Rookies act in the late night hours. Joe White, owner of Dopest Dough at 695 Main St., said he is there at all hours to prepare his baked goods and he has often had to deal with unruly patrons from Rookies. He mentioned that people will urinate outside the building, take up parking in the private lot or be seen drinking in their vehicles. And while he said Martinez has been working to make things better, there were past incidents with staff who argued with White when he raised complaints about the patrons.
White added that efforts were made to restrict parking at the private lot when the other businesses are closed for the evening, but that has also led to conflicts from both people who want to park there and people online who then criticize the businesses for not being accommodating to others.
“At the end of every situation, we’re getting a target put on our back. What else are we going to do? When I’m coming to work at two in the morning and I’ve got underage children giving me grief for telling them to stop urinating on my parking lot and they walk back into Rookies, what am I going to do?” White asked the board.
Mayor Peter Mercurio advised everyone that in these situations the police are there for a reason and to give them a call.
Krieger added that if calls are made to tow a vehicle from the private lot, his officers would do so and it would be easier to do that in the evening hours when businesses are closed, making obvious they are not patrons of places like Dopest Dough. White responded that he has asked police to do this in the past, but officers have told him they don’t know what ticket to write for the complaint. Krieger said he would talk with his officers after the meeting to fix the problem.
After the discussion, no specific action was taken after the meeting, except Martinez said the bar would now close at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m., as the permit states, and he would obtain a license scanner for the bar. Thomas said the efforts will be monitored and the board may hold another hearing if it needs to address future complaints.