TWIN FALLS — Bumpin Bernie’s, a popular after-hours hangout downtown, needs to control its customers and do more to eliminate rowdiness outside or the city may force the business to close earlier.
Essentially, the city is asking for a little less bumpin’.
The bar, nightclub and hookah lounge at 139 Shoshone St. N. operates until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, but stops serving alcohol at 1 a.m. per state statute. Police say they receive more calls for fights, batteries and disturbances there than at similar bars in town that close at 1:30 a.m.
Police had asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to amend the bar’s special use permit to limit hours to 1:30 a.m. But after hearing testimony on the business’ behalf, the commission decided to table the item and allow Bumpin Bernie’s more time to step up its cleanup efforts and work to address security in the Urban Renewal Agency-owned parking lot behind it.
“You guys got to get control,” chairman Tom Frank said at the public hearing Tuesday. “They’re your customers, whether they go in the building or not. They’re probably using your bathrooms when they’re not out doing something else.”
The issue will come up again before the P&Z at a public hearing Dec. 12.
“Things won’t be so forgiving at that time,” Frank said. “This is kind of your Jesus — pardon that term — meeting, and you guys really need to get a handle on it.”
Bumpin Bernie’s co-owner Burhan Hetemi said the business has already taken action toward improving the situation.
“I took it upon myself to get a ‘No Loitering’ sign,” Hetemi said.
Since installing the sign about seven weeks ago, he said, there have been no incidents outside the bar — and there has never been a fight inside the bar, Hetemi added. But police reports show there have been a few calls for service at the address of the establishment during that time period.
“I’m really skeptical signing is going to change a drunk person’s behavior,” Commissioner Ed Musser said.
Still, the commission was impressed by Hetemi’s willingness to step up and work with law enforcement.
Since Bumpin Bernie’s received its permit for extended hours of operation in 2011, police have responded to the address 283 times — including 88 times for fights or disturbances.
Just in the past year — from Oct. 1, 2016, to Sept. 30, 2017 — there were 108 calls for service at Bumpin Bernie’s.
“About 48 percent of the calls for service occurred in that 1:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. timeframe,” Police Sgt. Kevin Loosli said.
But Tim Stastny, owner of the Slice restaurant nearby, also said the problems are occurring in the URA-owned parking lot. Just last Saturday, his own son was accosted in the parking lot, he said. Stastny has also found blood and vomit on his back door.
“They can’t control it — it’s not their fault,” he said. “You can’t control the maniacs that are coming down there. You never hear of a problem going on inside the bar.”
Artem Petrosyan, an employee who helps manage Bumpin Bernie’s, said his staff call the police when necessary, to make the area safe. And the issues aren’t with the business’ patrons.
“We don’t know who causes the problems,” he said.
Petrosyan also highlighted the business’ role in the community by hosting fundraisers and a venue for local artists to perform.
But the commission seemed to agree that having an establishment open past 1:30 a.m. would by nature attract more people to that area.
“They’re causing it indirectly,” Commissioner Gerardo Munoz said.
Yet the commission understood the need for such a business to cater to the 21-to-40-year-olds who stay up at that time of night.
“My greatest fear is if we keep shutting down at 1:30, our hopes of developing the downtown the way we want it suffers,” Commissioner Kevin Grey said. “It really does.
“… My hat’s off to the owner of this establishment for making those phone calls, and I think it’s unfortunate that that’s counted against them.”
After another downtown business owner complained of broken beer bottles and public urination, commissioners discussed that Bumpin Bernie’s could do more to help clean up. Furthermore, it could discuss the possibility with the URA of lighting that parking lot.
“I think there’s a bigger issue that the city or the owner of the parking lot need to address to make that place safe,” Commissioner Danielle Dawson said.
After the meeting, Bumpin Bernie’s employees spoke to law enforcement and a commissioner, and they seemed eager to pursue more lighting and better communication.
If the conditions don’t improve, Hetemi could face a cut to his hours that would be detrimental to his business. Most customers arrive after 12:45 a.m., he said.
“Most people just think we’re open 1 to 3,” Hetemi said.
It’s an image he has been trying to move away from over the past couple of years. Bumpin Bernie’s serves European food from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It opens again from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; and 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
But since the establishment began operating a hookah lounge in March, Hetemi has noticed more police patrols happening and feels that his business is being targeted.
“I try my best to work with them,” he said.
Bumpin Bernie’s is the only establishment in the area open past 1:30 a.m.
“There’s never been a complaint about the bar, never a written note, never a phone call from a neighbor,” Petrosyan said.