With Moksa as cautionary tale, officials endorse joint Central Square police fund
Beefing up police details in Central Square when its nightclubs and bars let out and adding security inside has succeeded in taking the heat off the owner of Moksa, a tapas restaurant, and Naga, its attached lounge.
Drunken brawls over space inside and on the streets outside that drained the city of police resources in the spring and summer were brought back before the License Commission on Tuesday. The most notable incident was back on May 17, when an aggressive 400-person crowd and several fights drew three-quarters of the city police department and the entire MIT Police force to the scene, the Cambridge Chronicle reported.
Moksa’s owner, Solmon Chowdhury, had similar issues at his OM restaurant and nightclub in Harvard Square, which was hit with a five-day suspension for various licensing violations, including over-serving and overcrowding, before closing Jan. 1. In a letter to the commission after OM’s closing, Chowdhury wrote that he was “committed to make Moksa Tapas and Lounge a great dining and entertainment destination in Cambridge.”
Since the incidents, Moksa has taken steps to avoid repeat offenses, including hiring new promoters and beefing up its private security details, according to Chowdhury’s attorney, Sean Hope. Commissioners said they recognized that since Moksa’s initial hearing, there has been marked improvement in behavior, with only minor disturbances occurring in the area.
Chowdhury, the Central Square Business Association and other Central Square establishments have started a fund to increase police detail in the area in hopes of curtailing problems with crowds at closing time, but with mainly Chowdhury contributing, there is little money in the fund, Hope said.
The commission went on record as strongly encouraging all Central Square businesses that are open late to contribute to a cooperative solution, with a fair-share investment, to improve the area and ensure public safety.
The commission also brought up a rising trend seen in expensive bars and lounges: customers sneaking in their own alcohol. In response to high drink prices, it seems people have resorted to a BYOB approach. This improves chances of over-serving, since bartenders aren’t the only ones supplying alcohol. Commissioners suggested Moksa tighten security to stop the problem.
“These places are integral to Central Square’s economy and success, but you’ve got your challenges,” commission chairman Michael Gardner said. “We trust, hope and expect that you meet them.”