Broad Ripple biz owners optimistic about safety at curfew’s end

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The intersection of Guilford and Broad Ripple avenues was the scene of a triple homicide on June 25 that also injured one person. (IBJ photo/Taylor Wooten)

After an early-morning shooting across the street from his popular Broad Ripple night spots left three people dead and another injured, Rob Sabatini quickly joined other bar and restaurant owners in late June to voluntarily set earlier closing times.

Rob Sabatini

Many of them say the uniform 1 a.m. closing time was probably the most swiftly effective measure in calming the violence that had been a rising concern in the popular bar district for months.

But by the end of July, they generally agreed the self-imposed 30-day curfew wasn’t financially sustainable, especially as they continued to suffer from reduced foot traffic due to ongoing road construction.

The shift doesn’t mean all bars will once again be open until 3 a.m. Sabatini, for instance, said he plans to assess the crowds and start by shutting down at 1:30 a.m., and he expects other business owners will make similar judgments.

“We’ve come to such an agreement that we must trust each other to do what’s right,” he told IBJ.

Even though closing times are shifting later and the proposed establishment of a gun-free zone in Broad Ripple has never materialized, business owners told IBJ they remain optimistic that other measures established over the past month are more sustainable and will help keep the peace.

Jennifer Velasco

Nearly a week after the triple homicide, Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration decided to close the large parking lot at the Broad Ripple Station strip mall to deter loitering by hundreds of people. IMPD also placed additional public safety cameras in problem parking lots and light towers in poorly lit areas.

Jennifer Velasco, owner of the boutique and art gallery The Bungalow, said dealing with the parking lots was a “big win.” She said the level of crime in Broad Ripple before that was “beyond police patrol.”

Crowds in Broad Ripple have been low since the new measures were implemented, IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey said at a July 26 media briefing. There have been no major incidents involving guns, he added.

Jordan Dillon, executive director of the Broad Ripple Village Association, said the slimmer crowds have been both good and bad for area businesses.

Jordan Dillon

Broad Ripple merchants are already squeezed by Broad Ripple Avenue construction and the long-term effects of the pandemic—factors that led owners of bars and clubs, paired with the decrease in crowds that cause public safety concerns, to end a 30-day commitment to a 1 a.m. closing time.

Sabatini, the owner of Rock Lobster, Mineshaft Saloon and Average Joe’s, said his businesses have seen dramatic decreases in revenue—as much to 90% less than the average annual revenue in pre-pandemic years dating back to 2017.

He mostly attributes the decrease to the construction project, which began in September 2022 and prevents ride-share services from bringing bar patrons to his door.

The infrastructure project was heavily delayed by utility relocation, city spokesperson Mark Bode told IBJ in an email. The city aims to have the avenue open to traffic by mid-September and the rest of the project completed by the end of the construction season.

Unified business owners

With the decrease in heavy foot traffic, Sabatini said, the late-night business owners have decided to treat closing times in a more “fluid” manner and meet monthly to assess conditions.

The suggestion by some observers that some businesses had broken a pact and decided to stay open late without consulting others is false, Dillon told IBJ.

“The businesses in our area, specifically the late-night businesses, are more unified than they have ever been, and they are meeting on a regular basis,” she said.

Having owned a business in Broad Ripple since 1992, Sabatini has seen the village’s ups and downs and is hopeful the neighborhood will make it out of this difficult time with the city’s assistance.

“All my life has been invested in making Broad Ripple a better place, and this isn’t the first time it’s had a little bit of a downturn,” Sabatini said. “I think it’s kind of up to the officials.”

Bill Ficca, whose event venue, The Vanguard, hosted Republican mayoral candidate Jefferson Shreve’s July 13 crime policy announcement, criticized the measures taken by Hogsett’s Democratic administration as “reactive instead of proactive.”

The Broad Ripple Village Association had requested city assistance more than a month before the June 25 triple homicide. On May 15, the association penned a letter to city leaders asking for a dedicated, city-sponsored resource to monitor and report on crime occurrences and trends; parking lot security and small-business resources; a promotional campaign of public safety measures; and funding for additional preventive measures from IMPD.

At the time, city and IMPD officials said conversations with the BRVA were ongoing. Ultimately, the city did close off a large parking lot that attracted crime. Still Ficca said businesses had done more by deciding to close early.

“Yet again, the businesses have been asked to do more than the city, and that’s not sustainable,” Ficca said. He also owns The Casba, 317 Burger and 317 BBQ.

A gun-free zone?

Among the business owners’ hopes was the creation of a gun-free zone.

The BRVA got the idea from a May 25 crime proposal speech from Hogsett, in which he announced that private entities could host events on public property while asking the city to provide resources to secure the area. The plan was used for the first time at the WonderRoad music festival at Garfield Park.

The association thought the idea could be implemented in the Broad Ripple entertainment district. But weeks after the initial request, high insurance and staffing costs are creating hurdles to implementation, Dillon said.

The association didn’t know it would be responsible for insuring and managing the space when it requested the gun-free zone, she told IBJ. The city would provide the weapon detectors—but the BRVA would need to largely staff them.

Dillon said several insurance companies outright rejected working with the BRVA, which would have to host “events” every weekend to take advantage of the city’s “gun-free zone” idea and get around state gun laws that prevent local governments from imposing gun restrictions.

Insurance companies also asked how large the zone would be, which was hard to define, and who would operate the metal detectors.

“It’s a little bit of a chicken and egg, right?” Dillon said. “Like, ‘Well I don’t know, what should we do? What makes a difference in the insurance rates?’”

She noted that in the initial letter, which was shared publicly, the BRVA requested assistance implementing the gun-free zone through a task force. The BRVA has since begun pushing for the city to hire a project manager to assist in decisions around the gun-free zone.

When asked by a reporter at the July 26 media briefing about the proposed gun-free zone, Hogsett deferred to Bailey, the assistant IMPD police chief, who said it was up to the BRVA.

“That is in their court to determine if that’s what they want to do.”

Search for creative solutions

While the gun-free-zone proposal is on hold in Broad Ripple, business owners have asked city officials to take more action to stop loitering and curb alcohol consumption on sidewalks.

These discussions took place largely at a July 13 meeting at which 40 representatives of late-night businesses spoke to city officials.

“[Others asked], how can loitering be policed in a constitutional and fair way? Is that a possibility?” Dillon said.

Indianapolis has an anti-loitering ordinance—but it is “generally not an effective law-enforcement tool, standing alone, because of constitutional restrictions imposed by the courts,” Hogsett spokesman Bode told IBJ in an email.

State law allows the carrying of open containers of alcohol except in a vehicle—so that is also difficult to prevent unless the people drinking are participating in some illegal activity.

The Hogsett administration has pointed to the permitless-handgun-carry law passed by the Republican supermajority in the Legislature as a complicating factor, too.

At the June 30 press conference, Hogsett said police essentially have to assume every handgun is being carried legally.

Bailey agreed, saying police need a legal reason to run a criminal background check to determine whether people have been convicted of a crime that would bar them from carrying a firearm.

Valasco, a business owner in Broad Ripple for 30 years, said she believes the state’s less-restrictive gun laws have at least partially contributed to the increased violence.

The party scene in Broad Ripple has always produced some level of nuisance, she noted. For instance, the front windows of her boutique and art gallery were shot out in March 2021.

“We’ve always had some issues,” she said, “but it’s never been this elevated.”•

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10 thoughts on “Broad Ripple biz owners optimistic about safety at curfew’s end

  1. It’s unfortunate that Indianapolis and other cities are dealing with this very same issue. Not sure what’s the issue other than people unable to deal with disagreements without the use of violence. This isn’t a racial thing but a social issue that’s trending nationwide. I would suggest the city install cameras all around Broad Ripple, bar owners must have working cameras in and out their respective businesses. More uniformed and plain clothed officers in the area and the strip should be closed off to cars and pedestrian only from 8pm to maybe 2am. Essential personal only can drive through the strip at those designated hours. I truly believe most people come to the area to enjoy Indys night life but these are unfortunately the times we live in and being proactive is better than being reactive.

    1. Not sure closing the strip to cars after 8:00 pm will do much. It’s been closed to cars since September 2022 and this violence still occurred. Can they identify through police runs and investigation which clubs seem to be the biggest problem and pull their permits?

    2. Randy–

      It’s only a “social issue that’s trending nationwide” because one party has decided that law enforcement is mean and criminals just need kindness to transform themselves. We’re seeing, in places where that one party has dominance, exactly how naive this way of thinking is. To call it the “times we live in” is to willfully blind one’s self to the obvious source.

      While it would behoove bar owners to install working cameras throughout their facilities, this is an expense they’re being forced to incur because the City is derelict in its responsibilities. In other words, it’s “reactive” rather than “proactive”.

    3. Wow Lauren, nice parroting of Retrumplican talking points. Perhaps you should find outlets for information other than Faux News Network. A simple google search reveals just the opposite of your claim (red states that voted for Don the Con have much higher murder rates). This should not be a political issue at all.

    1. Peter, you have any better ideas to give?… I lived in BRip for 5 years and never experienced any of this. Had my share of 2am, 20min drunk walks back to our house. It’s pretty clear the people causing these issues don’t live in the neighborhood.

  2. It seems that so-called small government types are clamoring for the government to fix their problems. Why should those of us who don’t live near Broad Ripple have to pay for special police protection for private businesses there?

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