Public Confusion

The facts are still a bit muddled but the conclusion is clear. Middletown, Connecticut, needs better news coverage.

Here’s what is certain: Public Bar and Grill at 337 Main Street, is closed. The first, best and apparently most accurate coverage came from the Middletown Eye. Most people prefer this web-only news source to either the Middletown Press or the Hartford Courant. This incident explains why.

The fracas that led to the closing occurred on December 27. The Press had no report about it until January 2. The Courant, as far as I can tell, continues to ignore the incident even though the circumstances of the closing were highly unusual because no hearing occurred first. The state official involved said he could only recall five similar incidents. Compare the handling of Public to the fine/suspension of the Bottle Shop for sale of liquor to a minor. That incident occurred in May 2009. The suspension won’t happen until next week.

Here’s what I can glean about Public from the accounts in the Middletown Eye and the Press.

Roughly 300 people, many drunk, were present when a fight broke out early on the morning of December 27. It was serious enough that the entire on-duty police force (plus three more) responded, which left the rest of the city without any protection. One might raise questions of overkill since police department is right across the street and no arrests seem to have resulted. Police spokesman Greg Sneed said the crowd refused to allow the police to enter, but I’d like a first-person account from someone who was there.

The state consumer protection folks relied on the risk to public health and safety to suspend Public’s liquor license. The state regarded the threat as serious enough to skip the normal pre-termination hearing before closing the place.

On the subject of belated coverage, the Press waited almost a week to report the incident, but on December 26, the paper had a story about the cease-and-desist order issued to Public by the city’s zoning enforcement officer because the bar had expanded without proper approval. In another case of timely reporting, the C&D order had been issued three weeks earlier.

The Press story about the closing was not only confused, but the anonymous comments that followed make the city look like Birmingham in the 1950s. Maybe it deserves an establishment like Public so the angry folks can knock each other off.

I went in the place exactly once, months ago, to meet friends. I ordered a salad. Everyone else received their food. When I asked the owner about it, he stared at me as though he had never seen me before. Then he disappeared. For an hour. I only stayed because I ran into a former colleague whom I hadn’t seen in months, and we needed to commiserate over a couple of deaths and some other traumas. When the owner returned he gave some lame excuse and waited another 20 minutes to serve me. The salad that finally arrived looked as though he had bought it from McDonald’s a week earlier.

The place has been billing itself as a touch of Soho. If Soho means indifferent to bad music (even the Tuesday night jazz was tepid and uninspired), execrable service, a rude owner and worse food, then I guess we have experienced Soho in Middletown.



One Response to “Public Confusion”

  1. Redux, Redux IV Chapter 2 « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] Bar and Grill (“Public Confusion”) closed for good in April. The former owner has announced he is filing suit against the city and […]

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