Not much appeared to change at the stroke of midnight Friday in Columbus’ Short North neighborhood despite a public plea by the mayor for businesses to close early in an attempt to prevent more late-night gun violence.
Just steps away from where two recent shootings took place near High Street and 1st Avenue, popular nightlife hotspots such as SeeSaw, TownHall, Union Cafe and Short North Pint House were all still packed with people as Friday night turned into Saturday morning.
As visitors continued to stream in and out of bars in parts of the Short North, dozens of Columbus Police officers rolled by bars on bikes and motorcycles and in cars. Helicopters repeatedly passed overhead and drones could be heard buzzing by as well.
Under Fire: Columbus gripped by gun violence
Some, such as Blacklick resident Leslie Ofoe and Stephanie Obbish who were on a date, said they appreciated the increased police presence in the neighborhood. Obbish, who was in town from Cleveland, said having more police around made her feel safer walking through the Short North.
“It should be like this here every weekend,” said her date Ofoe, who frequently spends time hanging out in the arts district.
Police in cars and on bikes sat at several intersections throughout the Short North late Friday and early Saturday. Some officers sat idle in their cruisers the vehicle’s red and blue lights on to let people know they were nearby.
Everyone entering the Short North on Friday passed by red signs letting them know the neighborhood was under 24-hour camera surveillance. Near North High Street and 1st Avenue, a white police tower was erected with flashing lights and cameras.
But, not everyone agreed with the tactics being take to try to curb gun violence in the often bustling arts and entertainment district known for its nightlife.
One passerby said he was disappointed that the shootings were taking up all the attention while other problems have gone unnoticed.
Why have police stepped up their presence in the Short North?
On Thursday, Mayor Andrew Ginther asked businesses in the Short North to close at midnight. The mayor’s request came after two weekends of gun violence in the popular nightlife neighborhood.
Early Sunday morning, a 21-year-old man was shot and killed in the neighborhood after a fight escalated. Two weeks ago, a May 6 shootout on North High Street left at least 10 people wounded and resulted in police firing their own weapons and seizing 11 guns.
Along with asking businesses to shutter at midnight, Ginther also announced this week that parking along High Street would be prohibited in the Short North after 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Despite the parking prohibition, several cars remained on North High Street long after 10 p.m. and many were ticketed throughout the remainder of the night.
Read More: Mayor Andrew Ginther asking Short North businesses to close at midnight to curb violence
Ride services, such as Uber and Lyft, are now only be allowed to pick up passengers in curb lanes and at COTA bus stops, according to Columbus Police.
Ginther also signed an executive order mandating that food carts in the Short North close at midnight. The mayor said he expects city council will codify the order into law.
“Back-to-back weekends of deadly violence in this area have served as an alarming wake-up call to the entire community,” Ginther said when announcing the measures on Thursday.
Vendors, legislators question Short North curfews
Multiple food cart workers on Friday told The Dispatch they’re worried about making enough money to sustain their businesses.
Mourad Maoui, who was selling food at a cart near the corner of North High Street and East Hubbard Avenue, said he appreciated the extra security the Columbus Police provided. But, Maoui feared he’d lose many of his customers if he’s forced to keep shutting down at midnight since many of his patrons stop by for a late-night snack after bars close.
“I’m going to lose like 85% of my business,” he said. “People don’t realize we have kids too. We have mouths at home to feed.”
Read More: He was paralyzed in a random shooting at Dick’s Den. Here’s what his life looks like now.
The mayor’s moves have also already garnered pushback from two state legislators.
State. Rep. Jeff LaRe, R-Pickerington posted on Twitter that he would introduce legislation with State Rep. D.J. Swearingen, R-Huron, to limit the mayor’s ability to implement a curfew. The bill, tweeted by LaRe, states it would only allow mayors to enact a curfew for Ohioans under the age of 18 or in the event of a “clear and present emergency” as determined by the legislative body of a county or municipality.
LaRe tweeted that central Ohioans should “tell Ginter to do his job.” Swearingen, who reposted LaRe’s tweet, also took a swipe at the mayor’s weekend restrictions for the Short North.
“Food truck vendors and small businesses shouldn’t be punished for the crime in their city,” Swearingen said on Twitter. “Hold the criminals responsible.”
Living through the Short North shootings
While the Shorth North is a hub for more than 300 art galleries, restaurants, bars, shops and other businesses, it’s also a neighborhood many in Columbus call home.
For Luke Heard, who lives in the arts district, the recent shootings have been hard to stomach. Heard said one of the people injured in a shooting was a friend of his.
Heard stood smoking a cigarette outside the United Dairy Farmers at 900 N. High Street around 11 p.m. Friday night. The storefront sits near the intersection of North High Street and 1st Avenue where more than one recent shooting occurred.
Read More: Who pulled the trigger? How Columbus police are finding ways to battle gun violence
Heard said he understood the need for more law enforcement in the Short North. The neighborhood, he said, has needed a heavier police presence for a while as crime and gun violence appear to have become more common.
But, he also questioned whether the police surveillance on Friday night was a little overkill.
“I know safety is better for the businesses and for the most part I think it’s a good idea,” Heard said. “But at the same time, I feel like now we can’t enjoy anything as much.”
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: After 2 weekends of gun violence, here’s how the Short North responded