Salem Streets Can't Be A Battleground For Knuckleheads

Issues at Bangkok Paradise must be addressed properly.


As I walked downtown yesterday morning, I was writing today's column in my head. The subject had been chosen and the direction and tone selected.

Then I turned on my iMac and looked at Salem Patch. Plans were changed as soon as I saw the headline concerning the events of early Saturday morning on Washington Street.

Before continuing, be advised that I know the folks who own Bangkok Paradise personally. Some time back I worked with one of them at McCue Corporation at Shetland Park. I know him as a family man who has always worked a legitimate job for a legitimate income.

There are many rumors concerning Bangkok Paradise. While I have my opinion, the fact is that I cannot attest to the reality of those rumors.

There is one reality I am famaliar with — Salem has always had an active and boisterous night life. 

As a young kid in the Point neighborhood, I remember going from one drinking establishment to another with my shoe shine kit. Later on, as a teen on Derby Street, I was witness to and a part of the culture of drinking that was supported by six bars, three social clubs and one package store along a one-mile stretch. 

While working doors and tending bar at three different downtown establishments, I experienced first-hand the perils and pitfalls of working in the hospitality business — midnight brawls on Central Street; dumpsters tipped over in the marketplace; chasing fools down Washington Street who didn't pay their tabs; throwing a young man out and watching as the police searched him and found a gun in his coat pocket.

We can all engage in hyperbole about what we think happened the other morning. We can also opine loudly on why it happened and how it can be prevented. That achieves nothing except to increase the volume on an issue that was already front and center for the police and the licensing board.

Other businesses in Salem have had similar issues in the past. Some years ago, I watched as massive brawls took place outside of the old Scuttlebutt's. There were a few occasions when Central Street became a battleground when parties were expelled from the old Roosevelt's. Klop Alley has often been the scene of fairly large late night brouhahas.

All businesses that serve alcohol after 11 p.m. are potential hosts for this kind of problem. It is up to owners and staff to work actively to identify and deter the types of situations that lead up these types of incidents. That is no easy task.

An even more difficult task is trying to control a situation once it has moved outside of the business. Door staff, or bouncers really have no authority beyond the door of the business. They are not the police, and life is not a movie. People can get hurt.

Prior to all of this, the Licensing Board had already notified Bangkok Paradise that they were expected at their next meeting. Let's take a deep breath, and let the Salem Police and the licensing board do what they are supposed to do, which is investigate and determine what steps should be taken next.

We can't have knuckleheads brawling on Washington Street. We also can't act unilaterally and just close a place down.

Let the legal process play out.

Restless October 01, 2012 at 11:05 AM
I support the nearby residents in their campaign to get something real and decisive done about this issue. The situation in the parking lot after closing has been very noisy and at times dangerous for a long time and if it is now spilling out onto Washington St action needs to be taken quickly. As an aside they could do with improving their food. It was much much better under the previous owners. I miss having a decent Thai restaurant in town.
SouthSalemCruiser October 01, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Great article. You have echoed my own thoughts on this subject.
Justin Mattera October 01, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Bill, same owners from Casa Blanca or not? Looks like these guys have a nice track record of this type of situation. I'm no board member nor am I anyone other than a citizen with a loud opinion (just like yourself), but the day I feel odd or nervous or just plain take a different route home so I can not pass by an establishment in fear that I may get stabbed, shot or assaulted, is the day that place is operating the wrong business. This is not an isolated event, how many chances do these owners get. Maybe someone should get seriously hurt, oh wait, they have.....before they get shut down.
KlassySalem October 01, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Yes, the former Casa Blanca owners.
William Legault October 01, 2012 at 01:52 PM
The ownership at Casa Blanca was a bit convoluted. There were three different management teams that ran it at one time or another. The current manager at Bangkok was part of the first group at Casa Blanca, but they didn't last very long. I have no real knowledge of the situation beyond that.
Bill October 01, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Does Salem have cops? I am pretty sure I see them all the time standing by holes and construction equipment holding up traffic. Seems if there is a police force, they'd be out at night downtown and in the Point.
Katrina Blair October 01, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I'm like Bill... where are the police??? Time to get ones that want to work and clean up Salem and keep the peace at night time. Sure have your bars but also keep the peace too....
Leese October 01, 2012 at 03:56 PM
The police are underfunded, and understaffed. The current administration seems to have prioritized police funding lower than other initiatives. It's interesting that the recent police acquisition of K-9 units was paid for by community-initiated fundraising efforts, and not by the city. More interesting is the administration's desire to increase further its affordable housing percentage beyond Chapter 40B's mandated 10%. Salem currently provides almost 13%, and the city's FY2013 action plan (http://www.salem.com/pages/salemma_dpcd/studiesreports/fy13actionplan.pdf) suggests more is desired. This should be a concern for all residents, when paired with the lackluster prioritization of police funding.
Justin Mattera October 01, 2012 at 04:03 PM
I really do not see how this is a police issue. It's the bars responsibility to handle their own patrons. Once a situation arises, the police are called and they come in to handle it. This is exactly what happened. My problem is why did this happening in the first place? Why does this continue to happen at an establishment where the owners are the same? I don't see people getting stabbed at other places in the city?
SuzannM October 01, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I agree with Bill. Hello the issue is not new and it is not only Bankok , it is O'Neills Rockefellers, Murphy's, and now Tavern in the Square. Hello Salem State is back in session, have you noticed? every other bar that might have a large patronage of young 'customers', and they go from one bar to the other. This is what the police should do, keep the peace! Park a car on Washington Street and New Derby and have some foot traffic patrolling. I really don't want to hear defenses like 'budgets deficits' or how limited it is. This is their job, what the police should do and what they get paid for. There are plenty of police getting paid a $100 an hour for construction or street details. Plenty of volunteer staff for that sometimes, 6 to 8 at one job , every 10 or 20 feet. They need to do the same when the bars close, so as to,make a presence and DETER this kind of criminal drunken brawling activity by showing a presence on the street from 11or midnidhtuntil 2 am. And get Salem State security to pitch in. It is their student population, no doubt!
Justin Mattera October 01, 2012 at 05:08 PM
When was the last time someone got stabbed at any of the places you have mentioned? Again, no one is saying that people don't get loud and that a fight may break out here and there, we all know it happens, but people DON"T GET STABBED AND SHOT! To my limited knowledge, this has happened at two places in Salem......both owned by the same people.
SuzannM October 01, 2012 at 05:44 PM
This happened in the street and not In the bar . Last year my friend was very seriously assaulted and woke up in the hospital the next dat-after just 'walking home' down New Derby Street , on Halloween. It happens. Nobody was shot. And yes I have heard of people getting stabbed in the street. All the bars in downtown are a part of it. I have witnessed the behavior of one, to the next. Go down Washington Street from midnight to 1 in the morning on a Saturday , you will see it too. 'Kids' drink at all of them, and go from one to the next.
Bill October 01, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Great points - it comes from the top. Who sets the priorities? The two most basic functions of government are public safety and education. Not hitting out of the park on either. But we do have green garbage pails!
Justin Mattera October 01, 2012 at 05:55 PM
I frequent all of the places that you mentioned in your first comment, i have never seen anyone get stabbed, been afraid for myself of anyone I was with or heard any stories that would rival the one that we have heard about Bankok. I'm going to excuse myself from any additional comments about this event and let the cards fall where they do. I am sure that the city of Salem will step up and do what is right and legal. I do appreciate hearing all the comments about this, kit shows that people care and are listening to what is happening.
Shava Nerad October 01, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I walked down Washington and Derby after the last train on my way home a few weeks ago and saw plenty of people - mostly but not all college kids - drunk and stupid on the sidewalk, many like getting ready to drive home. That should worry us more than knives or guns. Get real! Four pounds of alcohol soaked brain behind the wheel of a couple tons of steel and glass at high speed? I am more worried about walking away from downtown and crossing the street than I am about crossing in front of Bangkok Paradise. Drunk drivers kill more people in our community than drunk brawlers. But you are so dulled to it, you've stopped caring or even thinking of it as an issue to be solved or frightened of. Way to go, Salem!
gene October 01, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Under funded and under staffed? Are you serious! Every detective has his own city vehicle and now we are going to take not one but two patrolmen off a beat and make them K9 officers. Staffing and money is adequate it just needs to be used better.
John Smith October 01, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Maybe everyone else already knows something I don't here, but the first question that comes to my mind when I hear about these 'street brawls' is: Who are these people? From my own experience, being involved in some large scale street battle is.. not exactly a normal life experience. Certainly not bringing and using a knife in one. So I have to wonder, what kind of people are involved in this? Are these visitors or residents? College kids? Younger people, middle aged people - a mix? Does it have anything to do with gangs? Some residual Protestant v. Catholic animosity? Maybe I'm old fashioned in tending to assume that the responsibility for this sort of thing primarily lies with.. well, the people actually doing it. Even so, I'd certainly want to know more before assigning blame to the management of an establishment. Maybe the way they run things contributes to the problem, but maybe it's just that a certain sort of clientele tend to frequent the establishment.
Diane Wolf October 02, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Erin Cyr October 02, 2012 at 03:19 PM
This looks like a good start. I have to say that in a city where people are barhopping, and doing pubcrawls there should be police walking a beat. If there are I've never seen them. This city would benefit from more lighting, more officers available to be downtown, and more manners on the part of those who are patronizing businesses at night. It's sad to hear about businesses, like Rouge, who work so hard to beautify their little space only to have it vandalized.
Thomas Vallor October 02, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I live right downtown ON Washington st surrounded by all the bars and don't mind the noise at all. I, of course, chose to live downtown. But Bangkok Paradise is on a completely different level of craziness. It is completely out of hand, I watch it out my window and am shocked. It's unacceptable. They need to stop before the October crowds are here because it's a volatile mix.
chester suchecki October 02, 2012 at 08:09 PM
a well trained bouncer would have seen the altercation brewing inside the bar long before it got outside.the bangkok has a back door and smart bouncers would have seperated the two out one out the front one out the back.there is alot of turf the two have to cover before they find each other again to fight if at all. thiss all takes training and a smart eye and ears not flirting with the customers not drinking but doing the job that you are paid to do. to be a good bouncer you have to spot it before it happens. whats the power drinkers and do drink counts. bartenders somtimes dont have time for this thats the job of the bouncer. yopu have to access them at the door. if you cant do these things get out you dont belong there. also its not your job to fight thats what 911 is for.
Justin Mattera October 02, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Spoken like a man who has seen Roadhouse one time or another! Great movie!
chester suchecki October 02, 2012 at 09:35 PM
justin i was trained in amherst by an ex state trooper that owned a bar there back in the 70's. those 5 college students were nuts and if you happened to go to school out there you know what i'm talking about. roadhouse has the right idea but its a movie.
Sonny Crockett October 07, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Maybe if you did your homework, you would realize that the police dept is understaffed. There are only a handful of available units on the road, far less than what is needed to handle their call volume. Car accidents, loud groups, parking complaints, college party after college party, domestic disputes, neighbor disputes, large group about to fight with sticks, more car accidents.. And don't forget all the ridiculous things they get called for night in and night out - toe pain, hurt feelings, I'm being harassed on facebook.. try listening to the scanner one weekend night and listen to what really goes on. 45,000+ residents, plus all the tourists and out of towners who come in for the nightlife and the police could be running only 4-5 cars on the road. It's a budgetary issue, not a "cops staring at holes" issue. No money for more patrol officers on the street = less patrol officers on the street. Is that easy enough for you? You sound like the type that would be the first to complain about traffic on the street where that hole is and say "why isn't there a cop here?". Do some homework and get back to me.
Sonny Crockett October 07, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Keep the peace. Great idea. With all those establishments you mentioned, and yes, many more "kids" now that Salem State is back. To keep all that peace, you need more police officers. To put more officers on the streets, you need more money in the police budget. Sorry you "don't want to hear" that, but it is a fact. Also, cops do not make "$100 an hour" on details. Sometimes they should for putting up with all the awful drivers that almost hit them routinely. I do agree with you that there needs to be more officers downtown after midnight, as that seems to be a good step towards maybe not eliminating, but at least putting as major dent in all the violence and tomfoolery.


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