Bug Jar Supporters Call Attention to Punitive City Code
A group of about 20 supporters gathered outside of City Hall on Friday June 22 to support the local music venue, The Bug Jar. The Bug Jar voluntarily closed after the fatal shooting of Devoughn Hernandez-Ruffin in a parking lot across the street. Hernandez-Ruffin had just left a Rap show at the Bug Jar. The City was to hold a hearing to decide if the Bug Jar would be allowed to reopen and the rally was scheduled to coincide with that hearing, which was not public. But the City made an unannounced time change and held the hearing two hours earlier.
The focus of the rally participants was not just about the Bug Jar, but about Rochester's punitive point system where police responses to certain incidents cause points to be built up against a business. An establishment that gets too many points in a given period of time may be closed by the City. This incident would have caused the Bug Jar to exceed its quota.
It is quite possible that were it not because of Bug Jar's management's concerns about being charged more points that police would have been called to the scene sooner. Trained officers might have been able to defuse the situation before weapons were fired.
The rally ended with an announcement that the Bug Jar would reopen on July 2, leaving it's 20 workers unemployed for 2 weeks. Several music shows had to be canceled or moved. But the point system remains in place. One of the previous incidents against which the Bug Jar was assigned points was a domestic disturbance in an apartment above the bar. It did not involve the Bug Jar operation at all yet the Bug Jar was penalized. Another involved a call by a bar patron accusing the bar's security staff of assault. No charges were filed but again points were applied for the call. The point system was put in place by the City Council in 1984 as a means of identifying and controlling businesses that were fronts for illegal activities such as gambling, drug sales and prostitution. The Bug Jar was involved in none of these. It should not be and should never have become a detriment to public service. Buffalo had a similar system which it has since abolished. Rochester should consider doing likewise.
photos - ben slomovic
video - al brundage