Earlier this year, Helena officials revoked Sapphire Bar's ability let let patrons drink on an outdoor patio downtown. Now the city manager is temporarily closing the city-owned patio to everyone due to continued concerns about "public health and safety."
The Sapphire Bar has long been a center of controversy on the Downtown Walking Mall. Residents of the nearby Placer building have said patrons of the bar leave vomit, glasses, bottles and other waste around their building on a regular basis and keep them up at night. That led to the city commission's Feb. 25 decision to revoke an agreement with the Clemow Family Trust to use the right-of-way between the Securities Building at 101 N. Last Chance Gulch and the Placer building.
At a public meeting with Placer residents in August, Heath Mason, the proprietor of the Sapphire, said he hired bouncers and implemented a new policy to keep an emergency door that exits to the patio closed during business hours. But city staff discovered during spot checks that those precautions were not being followed, which led to the decision to close the patio completely.
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"Neighbors have provided ample video footage, photos and accounts that bring to light concerns of public health and safety in that area. As such, the City Manager has exercised her authority ... to temporarily close the public right-of-way until these issues can be addressed," Amanda Opitz, assistant to the city manager, said.
In an email to the mayor and Helena City Commission, City Manager Ana Cortez said she had authorized the Helena Police Department, Fire Department and city attorney to "use all the tools under the law to convey a clear message: all of us have to be good neighbors."