Bar wars: Police zoom into action to stop weekend fun



What a drag. Apparently, the police decided to crack down on all sorts of fun stuff in Detroit and Hamtramck this weekend. Details are still hazy, because everybody is still sleeping off hangovers from all these weekend hootenannies, but here are the unsupported rumors.
Multiple sources say that the Cass Corridor’s Comet Bar was shut down by police on Saturday night. The scuttlebutt is that the bar’s liquor license expired at midnight, and the police were present by then and told all the customers to leave shortly after midnight. A person at the event said that one cop was somewhat apologetic, saying that the orders came down from higher up, and that the bar had to be shut down.
This set off a bunch of counter-rumors. You see, the bar sits in the footprint of Mike Ilitch’s new Red Wings stadium. As a result, sources say that the bar owners had been keeping the bar running on a week-to-week basis, never sure when the final hour would come. Knowledgable sources claim that a bar will usually be allowed to finish out the night in such cases, but this obviously wasn't the case. The long weekend and following holiday leaves the bar with little recourse in the short term.
In a way, it’s refreshing to see the city of Detroit cracking down on violations that it had turned a blind eye to in the past. Take, for instance, the city’s efforts to have the Park Avenue building razed for violations. That wouldn’t have happened so quickly in the past. Add to that the fact that the police wouldn’t let the Comet Bar run without a license, even for a moment.
But, is it a mere coincidence that both properties are either on the site of the future stadium or part of the proposed $650 million new Detroit Red Wings arena district? These are the sort of questions the bar’s closing left whirling in its wake.
Saturday night also saw another police action, this one at Detroit’s North End Studios, where an art opening was allegedly taking place. Accounts say it was a SWAT-style raid, reminiscent of the “Raid on CAID” in June 0f 2008. Our source told us that, while there had been some illicit high jinks at the venue in the past, the evening’s main event was a simple art opening, perhaps not the rave the police had been hoping for. We’re still waiting for word to filter in about what really happened, but it doesn’t present a pretty picture that people can have their houses robbed and have to wait a day for the police to come by to take a report, but the cops have the resources to arm up and close down a what sounds like a tame art event.
A day earlier, on Friday night, police allegedly closed down Hamtramck’s White Star Bar, a European dance club. When the club’s disappointed patrons lined the street, edging up toward Small’s Bar, one source said police used “tear gas,” although this is certainly almost false. Perhaps police instead fogged the crowd with Mace, which they did a few months ago to disperse a crowd at Steve’s Liquor Store in Hamtramck. We sincerely hope that no law-abiding patrons of Small’s Bar were swept up in that action.
All in all, it seems that a weekend of revelry just presented too tempting a target for the police, who decided to go on the offensive. And yet we have to wonder why, in a city with a high murder rate, known trap houses, and flagrant street prostitution, and with countless warrants to be served, the police go after bars and pleasure seekers. Could it be that bursting into art events and impounding cars generates more money for the cops than simply enforcing the law.
For that matter, what does “keeping the peace” mean when two of the weekend’s alleged police actions sound like the cops created more chaos than they prevented?

UPDATE: A poster to Comet Bar's Facebook page denies that the police visit had anything to do with a liquor license, claiming that a patron called the cops, who then shut the bar down. Somebody else who was there that night claims, however, that the police went straight for the bar's paperwork. As the rumors continue to fly, we'll do our best to sort out what used to be called a "developing story."

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