When the Chez Vous rink on Rhodes Street closed at 11:45 p.m. on Aug. 20, more than 300 teens began running towards Blue Hill Avenue and Morton Street - where many then began fighting and blocking traffic.
City officials and police don't want to shut the rink shut down, because it provides a valuable outlet for teens in Dorchester and Mattapan, but they say owner Greer Toney has to do more to control the crowds at closing time. "Eventually somebody is going to get hurt," District B-3 Sgt. Keith Webb said at a Boston Licensing Board hearing today. He called after-closing crowds "a chronic problem" at the establishment.
Toney told the licensing board she's tried, but nobody at Boston Police wants to work details at the rink and that on that particular night, B-3 - located across a parking lot from the rink - wouldn't send anybody to help out even when she called to warn of a large crowd heading out. Webb said adequately policing 300 people would require every officer in Mattapan, essentially leaving the rest of the neighborhood unprotected and that Toney needs to take more responsibility.
Licensing Board Chairman Michael Connolly urged Toney and local and MBTA police to meet to figure out a way to finally solve the problem. He said he would move to defer any action on the issue - and an inspection that found a locked emergency exit - until after such a meeting.
"We want to make certain that there's appropriate security, so we don't look back at a later time and have an incident that could have been avoided," Connolly said.
Greer said she has enough private security inside the rink to quell problems - and that the MBTA provides free buses and at least one police officer to transport kids away at the 11:45 p.m. closing time. One problem, she said, is that not all the kids take the bus and that once they leave the rink, they no longer listen to her or her staff.
"The kids don't listen to us because they realize they're not on our property," she said, adding she used to be able to hire off-duty State Police and MBTA officers as details, until those agencies stopped the practice because the rink is not on state property. On Aug. 20, she added, there were a number of Boston cops outside, just standing there and not intervening to break up the crowd.
Webb said the problem goes deeper than providing security inside. "There are some serious flaws with their security," he said, adding that the rink's license requires it to provide security not just inside, but on the sidewalk in front, as well. He denied officers just stood around watching the action on the night in question; 11:45 is when the shift changes at B-3 and the officers outside were either on their way home or reporting for duty.
In addition to crowd control, Toney and police also differed on a locked exit door Det. Kevin McGill said he found during an inspection on Aug. 27. Toney said the door in question is not really an exit - even though it has an exit sign - but an entrance to a room with fire-control equipment. McGill, however, told the board the door, locked with a dead bolt, was definitely an exit to the outside. In the past, the licensing board has suspended licenses of clubs with locked or blocked exits.