Cheap drinks causing more fights, cops say
VAIL – Drinkers fueled by cheap beer can get rowdy at the Sandbar on Wednesday nights. Cops say drink specials and large crowds at the West Vail bar and other nightclubs have led to increased violence on the streets of Vail.Each week, partyers stand outside Sandbar in lines 20-yards long and five-persons wide to partake in “White Trash Wednesdays,” an increasingly popular event for 20-somethings to guzzle 24-oz. cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon for $3 each. “A lot of people are showing up and we’re trying to control it,” Sandbar manager Dan Van Brummelen said. “You know what happens with alcohol.”Van Brummelen said fights at the bar are sporadic at best. But Vail Sgt. Kurt Mulson said on average, about two fights break out at this bar and others on drink special nights. Some nights are peaceful, but other nights there are several brawls, and the culprits are almost always locals and seasonal workers who’ve been drinking, Mulson said.Closing time – when patrons are maxed out on booze – is the most troublesome time of the night, Officer Christopher Botkins said outside the Sandbar on Wednesday.Three weeks ago a melee erupted in the parking lot outside the Sandbar, in which a belligerent man fighting with police was shot with a Taser by a Sheriff’s deputy, Mulson said.
“On Wednesdays because of White Trash night, it takes all the resources we have,” Mulson said. “If we’re real lucky, we’ll get two deputies down there for visibility.”With the entire Vail police force stationed at the Sandbar, “We pretty much give up the village,” Mulson said.The problem doesn’t sit squarely on the shoulders of the Sandbar. Other bars, including 8150 and SkiBar, experience their share of problems, Mulson said.”What it’s boiling down to at 8150, Sandbar and Ski Bar is when occupancy gets high, you have problems,” Mulson said.On Mondays, 8150 sells $1 well drinks and charges $5 for cover. But are people fighting at 8150?”Yes and no,” door manager Billy Pesaturo said. “The coat check is the worst at the end of the night.”Each Monday night at closing, a swarm of people rush the coat check making for a tense situation. “Some kids do get out of control,” Pesaturo said.
Fixing the problemLast Wednesday, Fire Marshal Mike McGee strolled through the Sandbar, making sure the number of customers in the bar was under the occupancy maximum of 297. To combat the fights, McGee set out guidelines to control the crowds at the bar. “This is how we keep peace in the family,” McGee said.When the guidelines where not met, McGee lowered the bar’s occupancy level by 50 people.”They’re making incremental progress,” McGee said.
Van Brummelen said he and McGee are working together to disperse the crowds that gather on the dance floor, control the line outside and breakup crowds outside.”They’re just helping us work with the system,” Van Brummelen said.Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14622, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado