Baumholder mulls law for 1 a.m. closing time
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Town officials are considering a law to set a closing time for Baumholder bars, strip joints and nightclubs, where unruly behavior during the early morning hours often spills into the streets.
Baumholder Mayor Volker Pees said residents who live near the nightspots have grown increasingly tired of the noise and are urging reforms.
“It’s hard for people to get a good night’s sleep,” Pees said through a translator on Tuesday.
More urgent calls for tighter restrictions started about two weeks ago due to complaints of excessive noise and rowdiness occurring virtually every night of the week, Pees said.
Complaints coincide with the recent return of U.S. soldiers to Baumholder after spending a month training in the field to prepare for an Iraq deployment.
Col. Robert P. White, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, said establishing a last-call time is up to German officials. However, he said he wouldn’t oppose such a measure.
“Good order and discipline is what I’m after,” White said. “Your (bar owners) establishment and my soldiers don’t mix at 5 a.m.”
Officials are considering 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. closing times, Pees said. Bars currently close at their own discretion, with some already closing early and others staying open to 5 a.m. or later.
While complaints of unruly behavior are not new, there is a greater sense of momentum and partnership between local and military officials in dealing with the problem, White said.
For instance, the garrison recently established a 2:30 a.m. closing time for a side walk-in entrance to limit coming and going in residential areas. Courtesy patrols also have been stepped up, White said.
White said he has no plans to declare any establishment off-limits to soldiers, though he hopes owners will cooperate with efforts to limit the amount of boozing in early morning hours.
Along with a closing time, city officials want to establish a curfew afterward to keep people from hanging around on city streets.
“We approached the Army and they said they would try and help us,” Pees said.
Most of the problems center around a small area of discos and strip clubs, where fights among soldiers are frequent.
In 2006, the city of Vilseck found itself in a similar situation. The city introduced a 1 a.m. closing time for bars after a series of fights involving soldiers and complaints from residents about the noise from patrons leaving bars early in the morning. That law was eventually eased earlier this summer.
A year earlier, a small group of soldiers in Baumholder caused havoc during a crime spree that included significant damage to the city government building, which was set ablaze. A Baumholder soldier was later sentenced to 15 years in connection with the spree.
Feelings among soldiers about an earlier closing time are mixed. Some say 1 a.m. is reasonable. Others say well-behaved soldiers are being unfairly lumped with a small number of mischief-makers.
“They’re going to make things worse. People are just going to go to another town to get smashed and cause problems,” said Pfc. Jonathan Dean of 4th Battalion, 27 Field Artillery Regiment.
Pfc. Johnathon Frazier, also from 4-27, agreed.
“It’s a small number of people who cause problems. Those people should be dealt with by the battalion,” Frazier said.
Soldiers suggested alternatives, including making trouble spots off-limits to soldiers, restricting known troublemakers to post and increasing military courtesy patrols.
If a curfew is established, White said courtesy patrols would have to be intensified outside Baumholder bars.
“We can’t have people jumping in a car and driving to another town,” White said.
Meanwhile, Pees met with bar owners on Monday to discuss the pending law.
“They were not amused,” he said.