Fells Point businesses say they’ll stay open on Halloween night

Fells Point businesses say they’ll stay open on Halloween night

– By Amanda Yeager, Baltimore Business Journal, October 18, 2018

Fells Point is back in business for Halloween.

Last year saw more than a dozen bars and restaurants in the waterfront neighborhood shut down early on Halloween night out of concern that the rowdy revelry of past years would repeat itself. But as the holiday approaches this year, crime is down in Fells Point and many business owners say they plan to stay open.

“We have not heard from anyone that they feel they need to close down,” said Misty Keens, the executive director of Fells Point Main Street, an organization that promotes economic development in the neighborhood. “They really feel confident that Fells Point is going to continue to be that destination where people go to enjoy themselves on Halloween.”

Crime has marred Halloween celebrations in the neighborhood in recent years. Shots were fired near the festivities in 2015. The next year, three people were stabbed in a street fight and, in a separate incident, a woman was shot in the foot.

Since the expansion of Waterfront Partnership services to the neighborhood at the start of the year, however, incidences of crime have fallen. City data show violent crime was down by 23 percent between January and August, while robbery decreased by 36 percent in the same period. Property crime rose slightly, though Keens attributed the bump to a string of incidents all committed by the same person.

Fells Point merchants banded together to pay for the Waterfront Partnership program, which offers maintenance, security and marketing services to the neighborhood. The City Council passed legislation last year enabling a business improvement district in the neighborhood, and 78 percent of Fells Point stakeholders voted to increase their annual tax bills to pay for the new services, which cost about $560,000 annually.

“We’re really seeing results from additional eyes on the street, on top of it just being a cleaner space because they’re cleaning every single day,” said Fells Point Main Street President Kelley Heuisler, who owns the Poppy & Stella boutique on South Broadway. “The number of residents that have mentioned how happy they are and the impact that’s been made — it’s been great.”

Su Casa owner Nick Johnson said the dip in crime is “a direct result” of the new services. He lobbied for the business improvement district to be established as the past president of Fells Point Main Street.

“It’s pretty astonishing, and sort of proves that the work to get the [business improvement district] passed was worth it,” he said.

Bob Simko, the food and beverage manager for Max’s Taphouse, spoke out last year against the “out of control” atmosphere of past Halloween festivities. This year, he said the bar will be staying open until its normal closing time of 2 a.m., rather than shutting down five and a half hours early.

“Last year wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be,” Simko said. He hasn’t heard from any other business owners who plan to close early.

Since the addition of new security patrols, “it’s a safer place, everyone’s feeling good about themselves,” he said. “Fells Point’s making a comeback.”