24-Hour Business in Lakewood: Do All-Night Businesses Present a Security Risk?

April Baer- Eight months ago a group of neighbors in Lakewood learned to their dismay they were getting a new neighbor. A local businessman was making plans to open a Denny's restaurant, right here on the vacant lot at the corner of Detroit and Ethel Roads.

Homeowner Mary Kay Gillick was so upset she started a petition, gathering the signatures of about 250 of her neighbors in opposition to the project.

Mary Kay Gillick- It wasn't so much that it was a Denny's - it was the idea that it would be 24 hours, and keeping the neighborhood awake with any noise that would happen. We were worried about the noise, and also the idea of what smells would be coming out, also would there be a problem with garbage, and would we see cockroaches, rats, anything of that nature.

AB- Gillick and about a hundred others showed up last week at a commission meeting to let the city's leaders know how they feel. Gillick's neighbor Michael Gill says the neighborhood is already grappling with late-night nuisances from several bars and carryouts along Detroit Road. Gill says this time he and others are fighting because they're tired of being walked over by business interests.

Michael Gill- People that live in the neighborhood are doing it in their spare time, and yet there are businesses whose 9-to-5 mission is to open in your community and they've hired architects and lawyers to help them do so.

AB- In response to the homeowners pleas, the city has drawn up three different proposals, each offering different options for prohibiting new businesses along Detroit road that would provide round-the-clock service. 90.3 WCPN attempted unsuccessfully to contact the would-be franchisee, Mike Kafantaris.

Opponents of the new Denny's restaurant have tried to paint the newcomer as a security risk, but there seems to be little evidence to support their fears. A handful of all-night businesses currently operate in Lakewood, from supermarkets to drug stores to family-style restaurants. Police chief Dan Clark says his records show these establishments, grocery stores in particular, have called on police for help more often than placed that close early. However, Clark says most of those calls came during normal 9-to-5 hours. While neighbors may have legitimate concerns about noise and traffic, he can't say for sure that 24-hour businesses pose a bigger safety risk.

Dan Clark- From experience I can say it's nice on the overnight shift to have places close up and not have to deal with people coming and going. It results in fewer calls for service - you can concentrate on other matters. But, we understand, especially in this day and age, more and more this is a 24-hour society. It's a convenience for people who don't work 9-to-5 to get the things that they need.

AB- Chief Clark adds that (24-hour day people) include Lakewood's own officers. One business that's often been held up as an example in the debate over Lakewood's 24-hour ordinance is a small, brightly-lit restaurant on West 117th with cheerful, chintzy green and white curtains - an all night deli called Dianna's.

Dianna's serves just about everything you could want late at night. Late at night it's not unusual to find spiky-haired club kids and chain-smoking senior citizens drinking coffee side by side. Tonight, EMS technicians Kevin and Roger are taking their dinner break. Over plates of scrambled eggs, salad, and fried chicken, they explain that on their 24-hour work shifts, they often have trouble finding a safe, friendly place to grab a bite and unwind.

Kevin- One of the downsides about the Cleveland area in which I live is a lot of the businesses close up early because a lot of them have had problems, and the majority of the time the only place to go is on the West Side.

Roger- It would be nice if you couldn't sleep to get up and have some place to go someplace sit down, get something to east and socialize a little bit.

AB- A recent study from the University of Maryland indicates only one-third of Americans are still working 9-to-5 jobs. The Circadian Learning Center, a Boston-based consulting group for overnight employers, estimates that 20% of the U.S. workforce is burning the midnight oil. Ed Coburn, the editor of the Center's newsletter, says putting the screws to all-night businesses puts additional stress on some of the country's most trusted working people.

Ed Coburn- We're very dependent on people being there working in the middle of the night, and of course police and fire and hospital workers come to mind, but it's also people in power plants, the phone company, people at TV and radio stations, UPS and fed ex and postal service... highway projects are going on in the middle of the night, and we're just not really fully aware of them. I don't think its really reasonable for us to expect that we've got to have these services avail to us in the middle of the night, but we're not going to do anything to support the people who make that happen.

AB- The Lakewood (residents) opposing the new Denny's say they're not unsympathetic to the needs of late night workers. They just think the restaurant should be built farther away from their residential street. Lakewood Mayor Madelein Cain says it's clear to her the citizens of Lakewood are serious about this issue, and won't tolerate any more all-night business in their neighborhoods. She hopes these new ordinances will help the city develop rules to govern their spread.

Support Provided By