West Hartford Town Council Passes Amendments to Entertainment Ordinance

West Hartford Town Hall. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Members of the West Hartford Town Council heard opinions and concerns regarding the the town’s entertainment ordinance Tuesday night, before voting on some amendments.

By Maddie Geerlof

After hearing the concerns and words of gratitude from West Hartford residents for the Council’s consideration of measures to strengthen the entertainment ordinance, the West Hartford Town Council unanimously voted to adopt changes in the “Ordinance Procedures for Licensing & Public Safety Police Details at Entertainment Establishments.”

“There has always been a problem either with noise or with parking,” said Mary Alice of 892 Farmington Ave., who alluded to a nearby business whose nightlife made her feel unsafe when returning home late. Alice is one of many residents of the town who have complained about the town’s nightlife which can often be disruptive and dangerous to the public.

Town Planner Todd Dumais outlined the three proposed amendments to the entertainment license during a brief overview of the changes which have been developed through the Town Council’s Community Planning and Physical Services Committee over the past several months.

The first change, said Dumais, is the addition of the terms “disc jockey” and “public safety threat” to the ordinance. In addition, businesses that obtain an entertainment license would also need to provide on-site parking at their facility, or they must be located within 500 feet of a municipal parking facility.

The last amendment, which was requested by West Hartford’s police department, consists of an aggregation of several changes in the enforcement and administration of the entertainment license.

In regards to the ordinance which has been in effect for about two years, Minority Leader Chris Barnes requested to hear the police department’s experience with the ordinance.

Assistant Police Chief Robert McCue shared his support for the proposals and requested that the Council, “tighten up the length of time between the hearing and the notice.” McCue also requested that the police be given the ability to communicate with the disc jockeys to prevent them from coming into an unlicensed establishment, that the chief of police be given the ability to suspend an establishment’s license in some cases, and that establishments be required to post when their entertainment licenses are suspended.

All of McCue’s requests were included in the amendments that the Town Council approved Tuesday night, and he noted that overall the ordinance seems to be working well. McCue added that many interferences caused by businesses’ entertainment have been corrected with warnings from the police.

Council member Ben Wenograd inquired about the impact that the amended ordinance could have on local businesses. Dumais and Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski explained that there are currently 153 establishments within the town of West Hartford that would be eligible for an entertainment license, and 27 businesses have already obtained an entertainment license.

Of the 27 businesses, there are 15 establishments that do not provide parking on site, and could potentially be impacted by the amendment to the entertainment ordinance’s parking requirement. However, Gorski, who contacted each of the establishments that may be affected, assured the Council that there was limited concern on the part of those business.

Before voting, Wenograd said, “I certainly do want to make this a town that has a lot of entertainment … but we need to balance that with respect to our neighborhoods.” He added, “and I think this ordinance will do that.”

The proposed amendments to the ordinance were passed in a unanimous vote by the Council.

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Maddie Geerlof

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