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No need for Darth Vader tactics downtown

November 9, 2012 12:10 am

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The owner of F.W. Sullivan's suggests that a Neighborhood Watch or hospitality association address downtown issues.

RICHMOND

--As a businessperson, entrepreneur, lawyer, law professor, bartender, nonprofit co-founder, musical artist, talent manager/developer, and arts enthusiast, I heartily embraced the opportunity to bring my passions to your town when your economic development department recruited us.

Originally, we planned to launch F.W. Sullivan's Old Town Bar and Grille in the old Fatty J's space in late 2010, but a legal dispute between the tenant and landlord thwarted those plans.

During the summer of 2011, property owner Tommy Mitchell called me--the economic development department had given him my number--and offered to show us the space where three prior restaurants had failed: 409 William St. We looked at the space and imagined what it could be.

Ultimately, we opened Sully's Fred there a few months later to great success. Then one night in early January, an out-of-towner broke one of our windows, the media sensationalized the story, and we suddenly became a community villain. Huh?

The history has been recounted, and I am tempted to restate the transpiring events, which indeed include your City Council wasting your hard-earned tax dollars playing Cowboys and Indians in our backyard and re-enacting the stormtrooper scene from "The Empire Strikes Back" in front of the Virginia Partners Bank ("Luke, I am your fatherrrrrr"). I state publicly here as I have privately: The police can search anything or anyone, anytime, at Sullivan's: We run a 100 percent clean and legal business. If you want to count incidents, the city riverbank has yielded more arrests than all downtown restaurants/bars combined. Get your own house in order.

I suggest three action items.

First, there should be a downtown Neighborhood Watch or hospitality association to address downtown issues that arise and will increase in number as downtown becomes a busier entertainment district.

My business partners and I will create such an organization so local residents and businesses have a forum to communicate concerns that can be addressed professionally without bothering City Council and the police every time someone sees someone litter. This body can interact with local police and the council to communicate concerns and evolve downtown organically.

Second, our smartphone app development company, cAPPtivate, will create an app for the aforementioned organization (at our cost), allowing area residents to snap and upload pictures from their phones when they observe threats to public welfare and safety, or things like cigarette butts needing attention.

The app can also send out push notifications to alert residents; for example, if someone witnesses a crime, he or she can quickly snap and upload pictures to the app, which can instantly send push notifications to the public and law enforcement.

Third, respectfully, to Chief Nye and the Fredericksburg Police Department: Please learn what community policing is, and work with other city police departments that have implemented it. It works.

We offer these three concrete steps that Old Town can immediately implement to increase tax revenues; make the Old Town experience more appealing to area residents and tourists; engender positive community relations among business owners, residents, and governmental officials; and make Old Town safer and cleaner.

D. Hayden Fisher is a managing member of Fisher Clarke PLC (law firm) and an owner of F.W. Sullivan's Old Town Bar and Grille.





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