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Harborside gets last warning

Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend said a local bar may lose its liquor license at the end of the month if he does not see a significant reduction in many of the problems he said have surrounded it recently, including repeated complaints of noise and out-of-control patrons wreaking drunken havoc on downtown and monopolizing his police force every weekend.

“I have sent a long list of requirements that the Harborside Bar and Grill will be required to adhere to,” Townsend said. “If we don’t see marked improvements by July 31, we will notify the (State Liquor Control Board) of our desire to deny them their permanent liquor license.”

Townsend’s letter was the latest communication between the police chief and Harborside owner Scott Hlinka in his effort to control “the great deal of problems” his officers have had with the bar over the last few months since Hlinka took over March 1.

Townsend met with Hlinka June 26 after he said the problems hit a peak the night before, requiring all Port Orchard police officers on duty to respond to the bar several times for noise complaints and finally to disperse a rowdy crowd of patrons released from the club around 2 a.m. that blocked traffic, broke into fights and led to at least four arrests.

“My biggest problem is babysitting that place from 12:30 until 2 a.m., which are prime hours for problems anyway,” he said. “What we’ve been having to do every Friday and Saturday night is park every cop we have working on Bay Street and have them sit there until everyone leaves.”

According to Townsend, many problems at the Harborside — which include patrons allegedly staggering out drunk to frequently urinate on the street or drive away impaired — stem from what he described as “overservice of alcohol.”

In his incident report June 25, one POPD officer detailed several DUI arrests his department had made over the past few weeks of suspects who claimed to have been drinking at the Harborside, including one 23-year-old man who did not have any identification and two underage suspects who all claimed they were allowed to enter and drink in the club.

In his letter dated June 30, Townsend urged Hlinka to implement several changes in how he operates his business, including stopping serving alcohol a half hour earlier, instructing his security staff to encourage intoxicated patrons not to drive and make arrangements to have taxi service available. Townsend also requested Hlinka submit an overall “plan to avoid over-service of alcohol to patrons” be submitted by Monday, July 12.

Townsend also stipulated that any future noise complaints regarding the business will result in citations.

“Music cannot emanate from the building after 11 p.m.,” Townsend wrote. “Officers have been instructed that no additional warnings will be issued (and) if the problem continues beyond the citation, they have the discretion of custodial arrest and closure of the business.”

Townsend said although there were no reported problems with crowds at the Harborside last weekend, there was another liquor control violation reported as recently as Wednesday involving alleged free drink coupons that were handed out to patrons.

“They may not make it to July 31,” Townsend said. “These are pretty basic things they should know.”

Townsend said he has not spoken with Hlinka regarding the latest stipulations.

Following his first meeting with Townsend, Hlinka denied that any patrons had been allowed inside his bar without proof of their age, and said he believed the parties arrested for alleged drunken driving or underage drinking were mad at his staff for not allowing them inside and told police they had been drinking there as retaliation.

As for the crowd problems and other incidences, Hlinka characterized them as “growing pains” experienced by a relatively new business.

“We are a young company, and we did not expect the size of crowds who have shown up and we were understaffed,” Hlinka said. “We’ve had no major fights and no major incidents of people breaking the law. Just a lot of people coming down to hear some live music and see their friends.”

Hlinka said he is working to address Townsend’s concerns and detailed many changes he implemented in a letter last month, including increasing the number security staff members from four to seven and providing a smoother transition from his bar to the street.

“We are going to have patrons leave through the courtyard, and will offer free water and coffee,” Hlinka said, explaining that he will continue to evaluate the new policies and make changes as needed.

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