Columbus asks Short North businesses and food trucks to close early on weekend nights
Columbus is forcing a midnight curfew on Short North food trucks and carts and asking businesses to voluntarily close at the same time on weekends in an effort to curb gun violence and crime.
Mayor Andrew Ginther and other city officials announced the sweeping changes, which will impact Short North night life at Parlor Park Thursday. Businesses now have one day to make decisions on whether to voluntarily close at midnight and adjust to restrictions on food trucks and parking along North High Street every weekend for the foreseeable future.
Starting midnight this Friday, food trucks in the Short North will be forced to close every weekend evening at midnight. Street parking on High Street will also shut down from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on those days and ride sharing agencies will be restricted to pick up people at Central Ohio Transit Authority bus stops and curb lanes.
Ginther did not set a timetable and threatened more action if businesses don't comply and crime persists.
"We think that businesses are going to do the right thing. This is what's in the community interest, the common good. And if they don't, they will have the full undivided attention of city, county, state law enforcement," he said.
The announcement comes after two shootings in the past month in the Short North that left a 21-year-old man dead this past weekend and 10 injured in a shootout that included police two weekends ago.
In addition to these restrictions, Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant announced her department will increase enforcement, manpower and resources in the Short North for existing laws. Specifically, she said her department will target street racing, street takeover events, underage drinking and other crimes and nuisances.
She said the increased police presence will target the Short North from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. with officers on foot, on bikes and in patrol cars and additional lights and cameras. She said curfew laws for people between 13 and 17 years old from midnight to 4:30 a.m. will also be enforced.
"You've been put on notice and warned," Bryant said.
Short North Alliance Director Betsy Pandora did not answer a question asking how many businesses have either committed to or may participate in the voluntary midnight curfew. She said her organization, which represents business interests in the shopping district, supports these measures that she said are temporary.
"This is a time for partnership, so we will be encouraging that partnership," she said.
Ginther was clear that the measures will be in place as long as they need to be, but did not set an exact timetable. He said Columbus City Council is expected to codify the food truck and cart restrictions into law at its Monday meeting.
"We believe that this set of unprecedented acts are required to meet the moment," Ginther said. "That requires unprecedent change, it requires sacrifice."
These laws supplement recent action by the city council giving the Short North Alliance and Capital Crossroads special improvement district in downtown Columbus $500,000 to bolster existing safety measures with the two organizations like adding special duty police officers, private security and cameras.
"While the Short North is safe the vast, vast majority of time, to encounter successive weekends where we have experienced gun violence at these late hours hurts us all," Pandora said.
Ginther, Bryant, Council President Shannon Hardin and the others repeatedly insisted that this crime is being caused by an extremely small number of young people. Hardin called the violence a stain on the city's "premiere destination neighborhood."
"The violence has to stop so the entire city can thrive and grow, so we can continue to enjoy all of our neighborhoods, our festivals, our bars, our restaurants, so we can all be safe," Hardin said.
City Attorney Zach Klein said additional action that could be taken is nuisance abatements targeting specific businesses that could be causing crime. He said the city has already filed a record number of nuisance abatements this year.
Klein said if perpetrators are caught, his office will pursue stricter penalties.
"If you're engaging in a street takeover, doing wheelies, threatening public safety and of course adding alcohol, drugs and guns into the mix and you are caught, you will receive absolutely no plea bargain, you will eat 100% of the penalties and fines, including jail time if applicable," Klein said.
Seventh Son Brewing, a business located near the Short North, said on social media that it will comply with the curfew.
Klein also announced he filed a new lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to push back on the state of Ohio's effort to block Columbus's gun laws. The lawsuit is the latest in a battle with Ohio Republicans in control of all three branches of government over requiring gun owners to safely store guns and banning large gun magazines.
Klein, a Democrat, pushed back against Republican lawmakers "down the street" at the Ohio statehouse who he said are not taking action to reduce gun violence. He called Republican lawmakers "obstructionist" for blocking the city's local gun restrictions.
"We are alone in this fight against extreme Republican elected officials who have no regard for people living in big cities across the state of Ohio and how we tackle violence," Klein said.