Since late July, owners and staff from 14 different downtown establishments have been meeting bi-monthly to create a plan to promote safe and responsible revelry without alienating certain businesses or customers.
The newly coined Safe Nightlife Association officially launched its efforts over the Halloween weekend following a lengthy public-awareness campaign. They put up posters reminding patrons to be responsible and to inform the public of the new formal effort, which seemed to make a difference, said retired San Luis Obispo Police Department Lt. Steve Tolley, who joined the association as a consultant and spokesman.
The association kicked off its efforts with a new strategy called “One 86, All 86”: If a patron is expelled from one establishment, he or she won’t be allowed into another. Tolley said the association is still working on the logistics of the campaign, but he explained that bar staff are using social media and text messages to enforce the rule, which, for now, only applies to one night.
Tolley said participating establishments didn’t have to expel anyone over the typically busy Halloween holiday weekend.
“So far, everything seems to have gone really smooth,” Tolley said. “I think the word has gotten out, and hopefully it’s had some impact.”
Rowdiness is not the campaign’s only target. The association is also reviving SLO Safe Rides, a downtown shuttle service staffed with people trained to deal with intoxicated passengers to ensure patrons get home safely when they’ve had too much hooch.
Late-night drunken hoodlumism was the target of an October 2009 study funded by the city and conducted by U.C. Berkeley research specialist Fried Whittman, which found that there was a disproportionate amount of violent and alcohol-related police incidents centered on the downtown core.
The study cost the city $21,880 and sent late-night business owners and patrons in a fury over the perceived notion that they were being singled out—or even being shaken down for more money due to proposed fees for non-specific violations. The fee proposal has since been dropped.
Relations between the businesses and city have since improved, Tolley said, but the message is clear: Everyone needs to be on board.
“I think now it’s more positive—everybody wants a safe downtown,” Tolley said. “The bar and restaurant owners know they are a huge part of the local economy. And I think everyone is working toward that goal, to get everyone on the same page.”