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Danbury Tackles Downtown Nightclubs to Improve CityCenter

In an effort to revitalize downtown Danbury, the city council changed the rules for operating bars and nightclubs downtown.

Popular wisdom in Danbury says the city revised downtown ordinances in the last decade to curb problems with bars and nightclubs, but the end result was the changes pushed bar and restaurant business from CityCenter to Mill Plain Road. Problems still exist downtown, and the businesses aren't thriving. Danbury's City Council approved changes Tuesday night to revitalize the bar and restaurant business downtown.

The City Council's changes made Tuesday night to the city's ordinances force night clubs downtown to take out an entertainment license, and the ordinance now has punishments for excessive noise, trash, underage drinking or other alcohol abuses. The city can pull the license for repeat offenders.

Manny Carreras, who bought and is renovating the former nightclub at the corner of Ives and White, said he will not serve underage drinkers. He is building a pub/restaurant on the main floor and a lounge/nightclub upstairs for the weekend crowd. He said he will not serve people who are drunk and he will have security on site to keep the restaurant and bar crowd under control.

The Danbury Police Department patrols downtown on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and the cost to the city varies from year to year, but it ranges from $150,000 to $370,000, said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.

Council member after council member asked if this ordinance would lower those costs.

Boughton said he hopes the new ordinances will lower those costs, and he thinks it is possible, but he said the goal is really to curb problems with drinking, noise and trash downtown. He said if the businesses stop serving people alcohol who are already drunk, that may cut the city's costs.

"We will mitigate the problem before it reaches the police outside," said Carreras during the City Council meeting.

Tom Devine, who operates Two Steps Downtown Grill on Ives Street, favors the new ordinance, and Andrea Gartner, executive director of CityCenter Danbury, helped the city craft the ordinance changes over the last several years.

Jimmy Pursey December 05, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Boughton and city hall are effectively patting themselves on the back for undoing the ordinance they put into place that killed downtown nightlife. The city had thriving bars, clubs, and local music venues until the ordinance made it impossible for these establishments to change hands or open in new locations.
Jimmy Pursey December 05, 2012 at 04:16 PM
I would disagree with this statement as well: "Popular wisdom in Danbury says the city revised downtown ordinances in the last decade to curb problems with bars and nightclubs" There were no problems, other than with Tuxedo Junction. Which ironically has remained open and still hosts an occasional fistfight.
Sid December 05, 2012 at 05:20 PM
What the downtown needs is what they have done in downtown Stamford, SoNo, Westport and other smaller towns. Allowing nightclubs is a start and a good one. But the Dining and Entertainment district should be expanded to the north side of Main Street along the stretch where the Cow's Outside used to be and where Sabrosura is. Outdoor seating should be allowed in this area just like in Stamford near Columbus Park. This area is well suited for it in that it has two sidewalks and an underutilized parking garage on Library Place. Night clubs in Stamford are allowed up to the second floor and the remaining floors above could be office. Since the clubs are primarily open at night and the offices are open during the morning and afternoon, they won't put a strain on parking and won't interfere with the operation of each other's business. The more restaurants and night clubs that open, the more downtown will become a destination point which will boost traffic all along Main Street, particularly the specialty retail shops. Rents will increase for landlords which will raise property values and tax receipts for Danbury. Danbury should proactively seek to get big chain restaurants like Black Bear Bar & Grill and Garelick & Herbs to open downtown to cater to different groups of people and work with the local landlords and prospective and successful restaurateurs to bring more diversity to this area. It's great that the powers that be revisited the moratorium on nightclubs.
Dave Bonan December 05, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Ghost town after ordinance.
PJ December 05, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Agree. I guess the Police need those few dollars from parking tickets to survive on though! So many people can/will tell you horror stories of the Meter Police and their quest to ticket cars. So, what have they accomplished? Pushed people away from going there. Why should they? They can bring their business elsewhere and not have to pay to park. On top of that, when you do go downtown you feel like you've stepped into a time tunnel and unless you speak Spanish you feel like the minority! So, goodbye downtown Danbury...eventually City Hall will give up throwing money at you.
Jimmy Pursey December 05, 2012 at 06:48 PM
I think one of the problems now is that the rent prices landlords are currently asking (although they may be comparable to current market prices in Fairfield County) are just too cost prohibitive to open a new business on Main Street in Danbury. You mention The Cow's Outside, that space has remained empty since they moved out 6 years ago. And it's just one of dozens of retail spaces that remain empty downtown, often for years and years.
Jimmy Pursey December 05, 2012 at 06:53 PM
I live downtown and have never had any problems speaking English. My neighbors speak English, I conduct my business in English. I can order delicious Mexican food in English, occasionally. People like you need to stop spreading this misconception. I agree totally with you on the parking problem, though. If you want to make money in downtown Danbury, buy a tow truck.
Most Popular Poster December 05, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Looks like your threat yesterday worked, Don. "Jimmy" isn't stalking you anymore and appears to be behaving more appropriately today.
Jimmy Pursey December 05, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Looks like my threat yesterday worked. "Donny" isn't stalking me anymore and appears to be behaving more appropriately today.
PJ December 06, 2012 at 02:18 AM
So, two people think downtown Danbury is terrific. Congratulations. However, the majority of people living here disagree with you and whether you like to hear it or not, downtown is a whole different world than the rest of the town. You can argue that all you want...I am NOT a liberal New Yorker that only comes here on the weekends...I live here and because downtown is what it is, there is absolutely NO reason whatsoever for me to frequent businesses there. I (and many others) would rather drive somewhere else, than to have to go to downtown...for anything!
Sid December 06, 2012 at 03:01 AM
I hate to tell you Jimmy but the rents on Main Street are about $6-$13 per square foot. That is in no way comparable to Fairfield County. Places in SoNo are looking for $25/sq ft. The rent is very low in downtown Danbury. Now there may be a few landlords who are a bit high and maybe that's why they're not leasing their spaces out. The landlord of the building where the Cow's Outside was has other pressing issues like 18 months jail time, which is probably why that space is empty along with several other buildings he owns.
George Marasco December 06, 2012 at 11:15 AM
Parking is free after 5:30 on all city streets. I don't know how anybody could get a ticket. Between both parking garages, there are over 900 parking spaces. Maybe people are too cheap to pay $1 per hour. I don't know. There must be another 100 or so meters on the street. Getting a parking ticket sucks but there are so many parking options now, that we can all stop crying
JWolf December 06, 2012 at 01:09 PM
I remember growing up we would ride our bikes downtown and hang out there. We would go to the Palace to see a movie or just roam up and down with no issues. However it has changed alot and I and my friends wont go down to Main Street after dark. I remember as a high schooler and even into my late twenties hanging out at Rodgers Park at night parked on the side of the road and hanging out with my friends but even those days are gone. That changed after the kid got shot in the buttocks by a drive by near the school as he was walking.Even Tuxedos changed over the past 10 years. I know my son who is 15 wont go down there once the sun goes down. At night Downtown does not feel like a safe place anymore and I have been living in danbury since 1976.
Most Popular Poster December 06, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Sid, ignore "Jimmy Pursey." He lives in Bethel and knows nothing about rent in Danbury. You can follow his daily routine online by reading the News Times forum posts (look for the vulgar ones and the ones threatening others - those are his).
Jimmy Pursey December 06, 2012 at 04:38 PM
@Sid- I did not know those numbers...thanks. Why do you think there are so many empty storefronts downtown then, Sid? The Cow's Outside had been vacant for years before Joe's legal issues. Since he's been in jail two of the parking lots he owns downtown have become diligently patrolled, with cars being towed nightly...so business is still being conducted on his behalf.
Jimmy Pursey December 06, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I know exactly how one can get a ticket, George. Attend an event at The Palace Theater. Get car towed from the enormous and nearly empty parking lot behind the theater, which people have been parking in for decades. Or, park behind the Empress Theater...get car towed while watching son's band play. I think you're oversimplifying the case, George. The new garage currently serves only a small amount of customers and is operating at a loss, from what I understand.
Jimmy Pursey December 06, 2012 at 07:56 PM
I didn't say it was "terrific". I just said it's not dangerous. Danbury has the lowest crime rate of any city in the state. For downtown to be "dangerous", it would require people to be there. And they roll up the sidewalks at night. There is nothing to do. I usually spend my money in New Haven instead.
Most Popular Poster December 06, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I think it's pretty nice. Central Park, it ain't. We are a little town and this is our park. I go often and see many, many Bethelites enjoy it. I encourage everyone to go and see for themselves. Maybe you will agree with JWolf, above, and maybe you will find you enjoy it as much as I do. It's free. Go take a walk.
bordwithbs December 07, 2012 at 11:41 AM
g, your ignorance of what is happening downtown is dumbfounding.. While the mall affected many businesses, many new ones have opened, and smalll businesses have survived and flourished. Just because you can't go "downtown" as you did when you were a kid and experience the same things does not mean that the downtown is dead. Your old, negative ideas and comments lack knowlege, and the flawed logic in your opinion is not worth much. There is culture downtown, great food downtown, a vibrant ethnic community downtown, churches, schools, concerts, dance and music, great places for adventure and creativity, and it is NOT the mundane, dull and same as the next mall.
bordwithbs December 07, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Please stay in the mall. No one wants you downtown. Your ignorqnce of what it takes to make a city and your fear of others smells like racism and paranoia. Maybe there;s a doctor somewhere who can help you, but I doubt you want to get better....
bordwithbs December 07, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Why don't you move to a white town like ....unnnnhoh.....mayby you are an anachronism, and even the most bigoted place would not meet your "standards". You keep saying whqt you ARE NOT, so what ARE YOU?
bordwithbs December 07, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Afraid of the dark??? Are you afraid of going to New Fairfield where the old man and his wife were shot to death on Thanksgiving, or the old lady was raped in her house? How about fear of "differences" being your problem? Sounds like you live in a very small box.
bordwithbs December 07, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Still ignorant after typing that? Read the ordinance, understand what is being proposed?
Sid December 07, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Jim Downtown has been hit because of the 08 recession. Many of the shops were and are owned by local immigrants. They have a loyal following and some have been able to weather the storm because of that. But the groups most hit by the recession were the same immigrants who frequented those places. Many left, others can't afford to go out and others are frankly afraid to go out lest they get scooped up by ICE for BWB. Small businesses are usually the first to go in severe recessions, especially when your customers are all leaving. I think another part of the problem is that the downtown has been sort of neglected and growth has been scattershot. The administration has seemed to focus on various nodes around town like the West Side and along Newtown Road. The West Side in particular has grown exponentially with the new base at Lee Farms, Whole Foods at Marcus Dairy, the Mall expansion, Rivington, Mill Plain, the car dealerships by the airport, the Matrix Center (old Union Carbide site) and so on. Downtown not so much. Some senior housing, some medical, not much else. BRT project on Kennedy is going nowhere. There is no big draw that would attract more than niche groups of people. Downtown needs foot traffic. People that will park in the garage and walk up and down Main Street. Hopefully with some night clubs opening up it will help get some bar hoppers out, bring some much needed vitality back to the Dining and Entertainment district.
Sid December 07, 2012 at 04:22 PM
In my non expert opinion, I think Danbury should be looking at South Norwalk or Stamford to get an idea of more successful downtowns. Danbury has some advantages which would enable the downtown to be vibrant with the right focus. Location for one. It's the 7th biggest city in CT but the only one in Western CT. I84 and Rte 7 make it very accessible and downtown is right of exit 5 so it's easy to get to. It's the only game within a 25 mile radius and for many in NW CT or in NY the only place to go for any entertainment. Plus we have a state university downtown. That's where I would focus. Places like Buffalo Wild Wings, Prespa, Spasi, Molly Darcy have decent traffic but there is nothing like that downtown. Heck downtown doesn't even have a real coffee place like Molten Java. Seattle Expresso was the last real place as far as I recall. There is no more pool halls, no place for entertainment other than the Ice Arena. Danbury has a very talented and vibrant local music scene but few real places for it to thrive. It needs more restaurants, nigh clubs and places for adults to hang out at night and during the day. That's why I suggested restaurants with outdoor seating. Bring some of the life out onto the sidewalks, especially in the summer. After that I'd focus on retail. At $10 a sq ft it should't be hard to get large retailers to open satellite shops downtown. That way you could park your car, shop and eat in a safe community.
Sid December 07, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Oh no a random drive by buttocks shooting. I can see how the downtown changes after that. I mean nobody wants to get shot in the rear. Fortunately, stuff like that is very rare. I ride bikes with my son up and down Main Street to Rogers Park and Tarrywile and various other places and have yet to get shot in the rear or any other place. Danbury is one of the safest places around as far as big cities go so frankly I don't know where this fear is coming from. Maybe you're just afraid of the dark and it has nothing to do with downtown or the people.
stinie January 06, 2013 at 05:40 PM
There used to be a bar there in the 90's and it was great with no fights!

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