An angry city licensing head on Tuesday ordered the Chez Vous roller rink to work with police on a new security plan, after hearing details of a Feb. 12 incident in which a group of 14- and 15-year-old girls coming out of the rink threw bleach at another 14-year old girl during a melee on Blue Hill Avenue that left her with bleach in her eye.
"This is unconscionable," Christine Pulgini told rink officials at a hearing this morning. She told them they need to come up with a better, safer way to disperse kids after a night of skating, "so no other mother gets a phone call like that in the middle of the night" - that her child is being rushed to Children's Hospital or Mass. Eye and Ear because she's had bleach thrown in her eye.
Because should something like that happen again, Pulgini warned, she would cut the rink's hours or take even more drastic action, "so help me God."
District B-3 Sgt. Thomas Brooks testified before Pulgini - in her role as director of consumer affairs and licensing - that when the rink let out for the night around midnight and hundreds of teens streamed out, the result was a chaotic scene in which Blue Hill Avenue was shut as it filled up with milling kids. And then, he said, three girls - all either 14 or 15 - jumped another girl, 14, and threw the bleach at her.
Brooks said that as pretty much every officer in B-3 tried to dispel the crowds and restore order - and make way for the ambulance for the teen - he found himself confronted inside Chez Vous by one rink manager who demanded he leave immediately and who told him he had no right to be there without "a police report," which Brooks said he told the man would be impossible to produce since the incident for which he'd write a report was still going on outside right that very second.
Brooks said matters were not helped by what he said was a complete absence of any rink security officers outside the club helping to move kids along.
At the hearing, club manager Vincent Best said he had four security officers working outside.
"My testimony, on the right hand of God, I didn't see a single staff (person) out there," Brooks responded, adding the rink should consider dressing its guards in orange vests or somehow otherwise marking them clearly as security.
Best agreed to work with B-3 on figuring out how to send kids home safely. He said it can be tough to get help from police when the rink closes around midnight because that's when BPD has its shift change.
And he said it's unfair to blame the rink for something that happens on Blue Hill Avenue, rather than inside it or even just outside it. He said the bleach attack was so disturbing he couldn't get to sleep for several nights after the incident.
Both Pulgini and Brooks acknowledged that Chez Vous can't directly control what happens a block away.
Brooks said he wants to work with the rink, and would order an officer held over, if need be, to help with an orderly closing. "We're neighbors," Brooks told Best and another club manager. "We want to work with you."
But, Pulgini said, the rink can't simply absolve itself of responsibility when several hundred young customers flood out at once. The rink has a responsibility to them - and their parents - to ensure they're not walking into a situation where they face a beating or a dousing with a dangerous chemical.