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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Bermuda's nightlife A late night bar is scaling back its hours to stop intimidating gang members spreading fear among customers.

18:16 | ,

The Bistro at The Beach on Front Street, and almost next door to Hamilton Police Station, is to start closing at 1am instead of 3am on certain weekday evenings.

Owner Rick Olson says he feels “personally intimidated” by the gang members who drink at his bar in the early hours of the morning.

He says the young men hang out in large numbers, have no respect for others, refuse to pay for their drinks and threaten to cause trouble.

Mr Olson says their presence is intimidating enough to scare away customers and staff and he is concerned someone is going to get seriously hurt.

The bar will now close at the earlier time on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. Then after the summer season Mr Olson will “reassess the situation” and could close up earlier every night if the threat of trouble is still looming.

He said: “It's got to the point that it's just not worth staying open to serve only a handful of thugs. We are going to scale back our hours as it comes down to safety rather than profit.

“The negative element is going to deteriorate Bermuda's nightlife at this rate.

“It's a big problem which has got a lot worse over the last couple of years. It's really not a nice situation that we find ourselves in. Gang members are intimidating staff and customers. I hear customers saying they are too scared to be out too late. I feel personally intimidated myself.”

The Bistro at The Beach has taken the decision to close early on a number of occasions over the last couple of years. This has been because “a known gang element” was on the premises or they were following the advice of police.

However, Mr Olson said he would now make the early closing “more of a permanent thing.” He is also thinking about axing the DJ to try to attract a different kind of clientele. Mr Olson spoke out after Bootsie's Comedy Club on Front Street closed its doors after becoming a hangout for violent gang members who weren't afraid to “put people's lives at risk.”

Front Street bar owners called for tough new measures to ban anyone affiliated with a gang from licensed premises. Mr Olson says The Bistro at The Beach “pays the price” of being the only bar on Front Street open until 3am seven-nights a week.

He said it was particularly a problem on quiet nights when other drinking spots closed as early as 10pm or 11pm. Mr Olson said: “When there is nowhere else to go, they head to The Beach. But it's not worth our while to stay open anymore, it's not worth the risk. These guys don't even want to pay for their drinks. They are out looking for trouble.

“We have security, sometimes as many as three guys on the door, but that doesn't seem to make any difference. Most bars have been challenged by gang members and it's very negative for business. We just have to do what we can to create safe environments.”

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