COLUMBUS, Ohio — After back-to-back weekends of violence in the Short North Arts District, city leaders announced a plan to increase security measures in the area beginning this weekend.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a Thursday press conference that recent weekends of shootings in the Short North served as an alarming wake-up call for the community – business cannot keep going on as usual.
“We will not allow a few hours of lawless and reckless behavior committed by an extremely small number of people to continue or to take another life. We will not stand by an allow this despicable behavior to spread any further,” Ginther said. “We will not allow these dangerous criminals to dismantle a revered community treasure like the Short North. It’s where we host visitors from all over the world and it’s where our residents go to spend time and enjoy themselves – we don’t want that to change."
On May 6, a total of 10 people were shot at two different shooting locations in the Short North. All of those injured were expected to survive. Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant said that 11 firearms were recovered from both scenes.
The next weekend, on May 14, a 21-year-old man was shot and killed during a fight on North High Street.
The city now plans to up security and limit people in the area after midnight.
Voluntary curfew for businesses | Starting Friday, city leaders are asking bars and other businesses in the Short North to close at midnight. The curfew will apply on the weekends and will be in place for “however long it takes,” according to Ginther.
Increased police presence | Bryant announced that more officers will be patrolling the area from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Those between the ages of 13 and 17 will not be permitted in the area between the hours of midnight and 4:30 a.m.
Limited street parking | Street parking will not be allowed on High Street between East Goodale Street to 5th Avenue from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and rideshare vehicles will only be able to use the curb lane and COTA bus stops to stop, pick up and drop off passengers.
Limited hours for food trucks | Ginther issued an executive order mandating that food trucks cease operations at midnight.
In response to the new measures, several business owners and food truck vendors spoke to 10TV expressing their disapproval.
Current legislation for food trucks, which started at the beginning of May, defines when mobile food carts can operate. They must be shut down by 2:30 a.m. and completely off the street by 3 a.m.
Adam Wallace, the owner of Feed the Need Food Carts, said Ginther's announcement came as a shock to him after he learned about it from a friend.
“It means you're out of business. They've already restricted hours where you can operate, they’ve already restricted the times when you can operate,” said Wallace.
Wallace said this will impact at least 55 licensed vendors that operate in the Short North.
In response to the city's plan, Shawn Shahnazi, the owner of Chophouse 614 and 614 Hospitality Group said, "Let's not punish the neighborhood."
“Last weekend we lost 173 reservations. Last week we had the slowest week.”
Shahnazi has invested a lot into the Short North. He invested millions of dollars into running several restaurants and he pays hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in both rent and security detail.
He said the crime isn't happening inside restaurants and bars, it's happening on city streets, sidewalks and parking lots.
Those who attended a closed-door meeting with city leaders earlier this week said they are glad to see stepped-up policing. But, they said they don't agree with the parking ban or with asking businesses to close at midnight.
"We're asking the city to do their job,” said Ed Hastie, a lawyer representing bar and restaurant owners in the Short North. “I’ll take the mayor at his word. I'll take the police chief at her word that they're going to do those things."
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein’s office also filed a lawsuit against the state of Ohio Thursday that would allow law enforcement and prosecutors to enforce gun safety measures and take actions to improve public safety around Columbus.
“Here in Columbus, we’re investing in these things and enacting the kinds of laws that will make a difference, but state officials continue to intentionally make it harder for police to do their job and for the City to take the actions we know will promote responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence in our neighborhoods—the actions people in neighborhoods from the Short North to Linden are asking for,” Klein said.
According to the release, the lawsuit challenges a state law that was passed last year that puts prohibitions on local authorities from declaring emergencies that require a temporary closure of businesses in a given area. Klein argues that the prohibition could threaten safety in a state of emergency.
To help fight the uptick, city leaders released funding for new safety and prevention initiatives, including:
- Columbus City Council voted to give $500,000 to Short North Alliance and Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District in hopes of curbing violence.
- $20.1 million in city funding for summer programming for children and teenagers.