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Council to review bar’s police calls

Ben Godar

A string of incidents at a popular nightclub has caught the City

Council’s attention.

At the council’s request, city staff will prepare a report

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outlining a history of police calls to Gitana Restaurant at 260 E.

Magnolia Blvd., the scene of several disturbances over the past year.

The council’s review of the establishment could lead to the

revocation of the club’s conditional-use permit.

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The permit the club operates under stipulates that it can be

billed for police calls in excess of three per month. Club owners

were recently billed $3,477 for 15 excessive police calls from

October through December, and police are currently calculating a bill

for the first four months of this year.

Police say most of the incidents at Gitana involve intoxicated

people getting into fights. Among the calls the club was billed for

were a brawl involving 20 people and another fight that required 18

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officers to break up. About 50 people were involved in an April 20

melee at the club.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday night to request the study,

and Mayor Stacey Murphy asked that information on how to revoke a

conditional-use permit also be included. Murphy said the activity at

Gitana does not seem to fit in with the downtown atmosphere.

“When we first brought this use into downtown, I did not expect it

to bring in the crowd or have the effect on downtown that it has,”

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she said. “I wouldn’t be comfortable going down there myself on a

Saturday night.”

When city officials present a detailed account of police calls to

Gitana, they will probably also present recommendations from the

police chief and others as to whether or not the bar is causing a

public nuisance in violation of its permit, Senior Planner Michael

Forbes said. The council could then begin a formal revocation process

by scheduling a public hearing. Because of a stipulation in Gitana’s

permit, a hearing before the Planning Board would also be necessary,

Forbes added.

The city has hundreds of conditional-use permits on file, but

Forbes estimated it has been at least 10 years since one was

revoked. While Gitana has received more police calls than stipulated

in its permit, he told council members that the billing process is

also a function of that permit.

“While police staff have begun billing Gitana for police services,

that action is allowed under the conditional-use permit and does not

in and of itself mean Gitana is violating its [permit],” he said.

No date was set for city staff to report back to the council, but

Forbes estima- ted the reports would be ready in one to two months.


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