Neponset Avenue restaurant says it's working to keep patrons from disturbing neighbors at closing time

A manager at Dorset Hall, 367 Neponset Ave., says the restaurant has taken several steps to keep sometimes boisterous patrons from disturbing residents of nearby homes at closing time.

Her comments came at a Boston Licensing Board hearing on Tuesday on a Dec. 22 incident in which blue lights and even a blow of an air-horn failed to get rowdy customers to keep quiet as the restaurant closed.

The hearing was one of three originally scheduled for the restaurant. But the board postponed the other two because they relate to an incident at the beginning of December in which an off-duty state trooper was charged with breaking his girlfriend's leg in a fight that began inside the restaurant, and the criminal investigation into that incident has yet to finish.

Sgt. William Gallagher told the board that in response to other closing-time problems at the restaurant in December, he and his partner, Det. Daniel MacDonald, were monitoring closing at the restaurant around 1 a.m. He said they arrived to see 25 people outside, with no apparent Dorset Hall staffers, milling about, "quite boisterous and loud" and with "several males pushing each other." Then a cruiser showed up, directed there by a 911 call. An officer inside turned on the cruiser's blue lights and set off an air horn to try to get people to quiet down.

Gallagher said he and MacDonald went inside to talk to managers, saw even more people milling about inside - and then, as they were talking to a manager, noticed a second cruiser pulling up, this time in response to a call about a fight outside.

Dorset Hall manager Erica Pittman and attorney Carolyn Conway acknowledged that night was particularly busy - it was the last Saturday before Christmas and the place was filled with college students home for the holidays. But they said there was no fight outside and that, in fact, there were two bouncers outside trying to quell problems; just it was cold and they had coats on over their normal bouncer attire.

And they said the restaurant has a unique problem: Most of the people outside were waiting for Ubers, but restaurant staffers don't want to try to push them away from the restaurant, because that would just move them onto even more residential streets, potentially creating even more of a noise problem for neighbors.

Still, Pittman and Conway said the restaurant has since taken a number of steps to try to keep from becoming a neighborhood nuisance: The restaurant now has a minimum of four staffers outside to monitor the crowd and it's put up signs asking patrons to be mindful of the restaurant's neighbors and be quiet on exiting.

Also, because the restaurant has a sort of rolling closing time - starting with a downstairs dining room and bar - staffers now urge patrons to hail their Ubers while they're still inside, instead of waiting until they get outside.

MacDonald, however, said he is concerned by what appears to be a trend among certain Boston restaurants that stay open later than most restaurants in the city - they seem to be morphing into nightclubs, which attracts a different set of customers than a place focusing more on food. He included Dorset Hall as an example, and said they need to cut that out.

The licensing board decides Thursday whether the restaurant merits any punishment and, if so, how much.

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