Bar's Hours May Be Cut

The Villager faces city action following stabbings, DUI crash; Cilantros also is in trouble.

You don't have to go home, but you can't stay at .

That's what the Watsonville Police Department is asking for: a significant reduction to the hours the East Lake Avenue bar can be open.

Fights, stabbings, after-hours boozing inside the bar and  all can be linked back to The Villager, according to Deputy Watsonville Police Chief Rudy Escalante.

So the police department would like the hole-in-the-wall tavern to close at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Satrudays. Currently, the bar is open until 2 a.m.

"There have been multiple criminal acts and arrests," Escalante said. "We're talking about people in there drinking after hours, serious fights that have involved stabbings."

The Villager has been tucked into the East Lake Village Shopping Center for 30 years. It's part sports bar, part lounge.

The Villager's owner wasn't available for comment Friday, but one Patch reader posted on Facebook that The Villager operates a van three nights a week to shuttle people home and that taxi numbers are clearly posted on the wall for those willing to take responsibility for themselves.

Escalante said he's been working with bar owner for 18 months to address problems at the bar.

In 2010, The Villager paid a $3,000 fine to the state Alcohol Beverage Control because people were caught drinking alcohol inside the bar after hours, Escalante said.

Earlier this year, there was some progress. Police Chief Manny Solano utilized a little-known city code to order the bar install video surveillance and the owner agreed. But then the 90-day installation window lapsed without cameras going in. The last word was the surveillance system should be running by Nov. 17, but it's still not up and running, according to Escalante.

Twice this fall, bar patrons have been stabbed and flown to out-of-county-trauma centers, according to police. 

Early Friday, a drunk 24-year-old reportedly leaving The Villager crashed his Jeep Cherokee into two houses a half-mile from the bar. No one in the homes was hurt, but the driver was hospitalized.

"We recognize when you're in the business of selling alcohol, there will be some issues," Escalante said, but he added that business owners should be on the front end of problems.

The city's Planning Commission will consider the recommendation at its meeting Monday, unless a continuance request from the bar owner is granted.

The Villager isn't the only Watsonville bar with problems.  will be banned from selling alcohol for 10 days in January, an ABC punishment following several disturbances at the Main Street restaurant and bar.


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