by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — City officials met late last week with four downtown bar owners regarding recent violence in local drinking establishments. The meeting was called by city officials in response to four weekends in a row of reported problems with drunken patrons at local bars, including a violent confrontation between police and two separate crowds of people in the early morning of July 14.
The meeting was held Friday, July 20 at city hall and was attended by the liquor license holders from Rosa’s Cantina, the Silver Dollar Bar, Sarti’s and the Starlight, as well as by Police Chief James Chamberlain, Mayor Larry Patrick, finance director Dave Johnston (who is filling in for acting city administrator Beth Neece in her absence), city council member Silvana Lind, Walsenburg City Clerk Wanda Britt and former Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino, who has been acting as a consultant to the police department for the past couple of months.
Chamberlain said this week the meeting was “a really good one and not quite what I expected.” He said the bar owners were very receptive to the ideas discussed and he said there was a good exchange of information and ideas.
He said the meeting was held to find ways to stem the recent trend of large groups of bar goers and individuals who seem to have been over served and under supervised while in local licensed establishments.
He said no firm solutions to the problems were found, but lines of discussion have now been opened. Chamberlain said additional meetings with bar owners and retail liquor store owners are being planned.
Chamberlain said no large bar fights were reported over the past weekend, although one individual was jailed after being refused service at two downtown bars. Chamberlain said the male party had been attending a wedding reception held at the Huerfano County Community Center and was refused service at the local bars because he appeared intoxicated.
Chamberlain told the city council during their last meeting on July 17, police had been called to the Silver Dollar Bar and the responding officers, Adam Ashby and Cpl. Joe Deatherage found themselves surrounded by a large crowd as Ashby attempted to make an assault arrest.
Chamberlain said officers had been called to the bar to help eject two large groups of people who were causing a disturbance. He said one group had been escorted out of the bar and was away from the entrance, in the parking lot and alley, before the other group was allowed to leave the bar. The two groups came together in the parking area and the fight began.
Ashby was hospitalized with an injured hand as many in the crowd turned on the officers and assaulted them. Ashby had to deploy one of the department’s OC aerosol grenades to disperse the crowd.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward