Prince Hall works to prevent problems at dances

Prince Hall Grand Lodge says it's tightened its policies on hall rentals after a post-dance incident in September that left one woman attacked and a police officer fearing for his safety.

Prince Hall board member Leslie Lewis told the Boston Licensing Board yesterday the Masonic lodge on Washington Street will no longer rent out its hall to anybody with whom it's had a problem in the past. Lewis said the promoter for the Sept. 27 had caused some minor problems at an earlier event but the facility decided to give him a second chance.

In addition, Lewis said the lodge is in the process of hiring younger security guards to supplement the current "older men" who had made up the security force for the hall.

The licensing board holds hearings on liquor licenses whenever police report any problems at the establishments.

According to a police report, a call for "an officer in trouble" came in around 2:05 a.m. Responding officers found one officer surrounded by about 100 people following the end of a dance. The officer was there to investigate a report of an indecent assault and battery on one woman - but the victim and her cousin turned on him and began yelling at him, police said.

Lewis said it all started with an argument inside the hall's auditorium and that hall staffers were trying to get everybody out. Because of the age of the security workers that night, "we're glad the police arrived," he said. Police say that every available officer in the area responded when the call came in.

Board Chairman Daniel Pokaski said the hall has to be particularly vigilant when it lets an outside promoter use the facility, because they can skip out, leaving the hall responsible for any problems.

Both police and licensing-board members praised Prince Hall for the good work it does in the community. "You really don't have a bad record here," Pokaski said. "It's a well run establishment."