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Campus Cops Startle Restaurants

Flashing blue lights on Main Street upset restaurant owners, patrons.

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The food at Six Burner restaurant on West Main Street is good. On Sept. 11 and 18 — both Friday nights, and in the middle of the busy dinner rush — the floor show was good, too.

On both evenings between about 6 and 10, diners were treated to a rapid-fire parade of blue lights and sirens just outside the restaurant's big plate-glass windows, provided by a very busy team of two motorcycle police officers running speed enforcement in the 1600 block.

Though happy to see police enforcing the law in the area, a number of restaurant workers and patrons expressed concerns about the chilling effect the constant flurry of police enforcement just outside the restaurants might have.

“There were two [Virginia Commonwealth University] police on motorcycles,” says a waitress at Home Team Grill, which faces Main directly opposite of Six Burner. “They pulled like seven people within an hour.”

Julia Battaglini, owner of River City Cellars in Carytown, was at Six Burner during the stops and says it was the buzz of the bar area, with patrons atwitter about why police focused on lawbreakers right in front of a busy restaurant and bar.

Ry Marchant, owner of Six Burner, declines to discuss what effect the enforcement actions might have had on his patrons, but confirms that the area was especially active on the two nights in question.

Patrick Sanford, general manager at Home Team Grill, says he's happy that VCU police are enforcing the law, but “the bad news is the destination seems to be my place.”

On the same two Friday evenings there was an announced drunken driving checkpoint farther east on Main Street in the 700 block. Initially, university police spokesman Mike Porter says, no campus motorcycle units were assigned to the enforcement effort.

“The bottom line, we've had no targeted enforcement anywhere the 1600 block of West Main,” Porter says, indicating that the only report in the area was a stolen bicycle.

Later, Porter provides an update, indicating motorcycle units were in the area and that “[a] total of nine traffic stops and five citations issued on Sept. 11 between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. … including two stops in the 1600 block of West Main.” He adds that the following Friday's tally included “six stops in the 1600 block” during the same 6 to 10. period.

None of the stops, Porter says, involved drunken driving arrests.

Porter says there's no indication of why the area directly in front of the two restaurants was so active during the stops: “With the exception of our sobriety checkpoints, which are location-specific and announced in advance, VCU police do not target specific locations or businesses.”

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