Late-night chaos may close Jo’s, Gate earlier

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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Problematic late-night student behavior at campus eateries is putting pressure on University officials to close Josiah’s and the Gate earlier on certain nights, a group of Dining Services officials told the Undergraduate Council of Students at its general body meeting last night.

Increasingly poor conduct by intoxicated students, especially on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights and particularly at Jo’s, has become a cause for concern, the group said, urging UCS not to ignore the growing problem.

Employees at Jo’s – mostly culinary students at Johnson and Wales University – are getting fed up with the late-night shift, usually the busiest at the eatery, said Gretchen Willis, director of Dining Services. About 40 employees have been “hired and lost” at Jo’s this year, Willis said.

“We’ve seen a lot of behavior around alcohol, theft and disrespect to employees,” said Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, interim vice president for campus life and student services. “(It) causes great concern about safety and well-being of student customers in those areas and staff who are working to serve those customers.”

Leaving trash on the ground, stomping on ketchup packets and even violence are all commonplace, Willis said.

“We’re at the point where we feel we can’t close our operations without the assistance of the police,” she said.

Broken glass, vomit and blood create an impossible mess for the staff, said William Bell, retail supervisor at Jo’s.

“We are not equipped to handle situations like that,” he said, adding that Emergency Medical Services was called three times to Jo’s this past weekend.

“There are students who don’t feel safe going to get food at Jo’s,” said Angela Sherwin ’07, a student general manager for Dining Services.

Bell said “eighty to ninety percent” of customers late on certain nights are intoxicated “at a pretty severe level.”

The nine guests at the UCS meeting employed a tone of cooperation, saying they hoped to work with UCS on a solution without having to reduce the hours of operation at the two late-night eateries, which are now open until 2 a.m. But Carey said he would not rule out closing the eateries earlier, possibly at 1 a.m.

UCS President John Gillis ’07 told The Herald after the meeting that he would likely plan a campaign to raise awareness of how students’ intoxicated behavior can affect Jo’s employees, adding that this was not the first time he was made aware of the concern.

“I don’t think it’s part of the student (consciousness) that it is a problem,” he said at the meeting.

Many UCS members expressed concern that reducing the hours of operation at Jo’s and the Gate would be punishing everyone for the actions of a few, though most agreed that the current situation was problematic.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Evan Wright ’10, an at-large representative. He said the Gate was probably less chaotic because it “feels cozier” that Jo’s.

Several UCS members raised the possibility of doing something to make Jo’s feel less like a space that was acceptable to abuse, such as by putting art on the walls.

Kelly Walton ’09, a class representative, said the shame or embarrassment people feel “might be a lot worse depending on how the surrounding atmosphere is.”

The Gate, while not nearly as problematic as Jo’s, would be closed at the same time as Jo’s so that traffic would not simply relocate and cause trouble there, Bell said.

Willis said Jo’s serves about 2,200 customers during its operating hours, between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., with about 40 percent of customers coming between 10:30 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Kyle Turner, a Johnson and Wales student working at Jo’s late last night, said most of the trouble comes on Wednesday nights, “after Fish Co.” Fish Co Bar and Grill, on South Water Street, hosts “Brown Night” on Wednesdays and typically draws a significant crowd from campus.

“I’ve had fries thrown at me,” Turner said. “People just get inconsiderate when they get drunk.”

But he added, “Officials from Brown over-exaggerate. They’ll send the managers over to (the UCS) meeting, but no one is actually here to see it except for us. I don’t think it’s horrible at all.”

“For the most part, it keeps things exciting,” he said.

Ronald Gordils, another Johnson and Wales student working at Jo’s last night, related the story of a fight that broke out one night.

“It sounded like people were having a good time,” he said. “They were chanting and they were singing. And then when I went out to see, there was this one guy, and blood was pouring out of his nose, all over the floor. The only good thing about the fight was that the guy who had punched the other guy had to apologize to us.”

But he echoed Turner in saying that everything wasn’t so terrible.

“Coming from another school, Brown students are polite,” he said. “They’re not that bad.”

Gordils said he has definitely seen theft, though.

“What bothers me most is when people eat their food before they pay for it,” he said. He said he once saw someone stuff a bag of chips into his pants and run away.

Patrick Frawley, a floor manager working at Jo’s last night who said he had worked there for almost two years, said Dining Services should close Jo’s at midnight.

“We’ve had to lock the loading door because people try to steal food from the pantry,” he said. Last year, a light fixture crashed down during a fight, he said.

“It’s only a couple of times when people get actually angry,” Turner said, “like when we close the grill.”

Also at last night’s meeting, Justin Glavis-Bloom ’07 was elected to the Undergraduate Finance Board, and Rakim Brooks ’09, Moses Riner ’08 and Christina Kim ’07 were elected to UCS. Representative Tara Gonsalves ’08 was elected UCS secretary.

– With additional reporting by Eunice Hong