Because of a new Fort Collins city measure, inebriated students in Old Town Square will have to move a little faster to the hot dog and gyro sellers after closing time.
Old Town Square now closes at 2 a.m., meaning bar patrons can no longer hang around their favorite watering holes after last call. Partiers who refuse to leave can be issued a ticket, or in extreme cases, even sent to jail.
Kelly Weaver, police officer for downtown District 1, said students can easily avoid getting in trouble.
“At 2 o’clock, leave the square,” Weaver said. “Probably nine out of 10 will not get a ticket.”
The new policy means loiterers will have to leave the square if officers arrive to disperse crowds. Previously, the square was treated like regular public property and remained “open” for as long as people wanted to stay there.
“(Officers had) no legal justification to tell them to leave,” Weaver said. “If they’d told police officers, ‘pound sand, I don’t have to leave,’ we’d have to pound sand.”
Now Old Town Square will be like a municipal park, which often closes at 11 p.m. to prevent transients and loiterers staying in the park.
Weaver said the new law is a proactive measure and came about in response to disturbances and vandalism.
“When a fight would break out, it would spread like a virus,” Weaver said. “In the past, we would have to wait for a fight to actually break out before we could do something,” he said.
At closing time on weekends, hundreds of drunken revelers spill out of Zydeco’s, Suite 152 and Lucky Joe’s Sidewalk Saloon into Old Town Square. “Several hundred intoxicated people is not a good mix,” Weaver said.
Businesses in Old Town Square often complain of vandalism following some wild weekend nights. Weaver said the aftermath includes litter, vomit and the smell of urine.
Before the new ordinance passed, police and the city tried other measures to get inebriated people out of the square. One idea was to turn on bright lights at 2 a.m., to resemble a bar turning on lights after last call. In the spring, sprinklers were programmed to come on at 2 a.m.
“That worked great until people started kicking out the sprinklers,” Weaver said.
Matt Bates, a senator in Natural Resources for the Associated Students of CSU, was writing anti-curfew legislation when he began learning about the situation through Weaver. He now supports the new law.
“It wasn’t really infringing on anybody’s rights,” he said.