SAN JOSE, Calif, - Mardi Gras’ “Fat Tuesday” saw smaller crowds during downtown celebrations. Many party revelers enjoyed a large meal with brisket and all the fixings. One partygoer said, “I had a large helping of pot roast and a couple of beers”. A Security employee at the Old Wagon Saloon located at 73 N San Pedro Street in San Jose, Mathew Austin said, “This is like a college bar and most of them are like regulars.”
People who frequent bars and areas where cigarette smoke and other carcinogens are present are at a greater risk of lung disease. Despite new methods to inhale nicotine with e-cigarettes and vapor cigarettes, Nicotine has a long history of causing cancer in the lungs, blood and esophagus. Nicotine also paralyzes the muscles used for breathing. Emotional affects are also felt when experiencing a buzz from an e-cigarette or other smoking device.
With a proposition to set smoking limits of 25-feet from business doorways in the downtown area, the ten-foot rule leaves non-smokers and workers at a disadvantage. Austin said, “It should be twenty-five”. The limit not only significantly reduces enforcement it also introduces the problem with being able to designate smoking areas without the use of “Signage”.
The City of San Jose owns the streets and sidewalks making it impossible for restaurant owners to post non-smoking signs on the property to move smokers to designated areas. “We could put something up out here, but we can’t put anything out there it’s not our property,” Austin said. If there is smoking here we get them out of here or make em go down the street that is the most we can do,” Austin said. “We really can’t do much without having a smoking area”.
Vapor cigarettes are not allowed in most bars. People who want to use these types of smoking devices are asked to smoke outside. Despite limited legislation on the devices, workers are unable to do little about its use near doorways. “Some of them have nicotine in them, some of them just have a liquid in them,” Austin said. “We just want to make sure that they move from the front door”.
Austin said, “I am a non-smoker, I can’t stand the smell of it”. “If it’s a law then you should be able to tell someone to put their cigarette out,” Austin said. The need for smoking areas in the downtown area is increasing. “Especially for bars that serve food,” Austin said.
During the celebrations with only one security employee scheduled to work on Tuesdays, six reported for work. Many patrons who entered the bar were between 28 to 30 years old. “We don’t see a lot of people around 21 through their 30s,” Austin said. There are a few people every weekend who try and show fake ID’s to get into a bar. But with a trained eye, teens trying to pass themselves off as Florida residence over the age of 21 were easily spotted and sent on their way.
Crime reported in the past has included stabbings, shootings and a recent reporting of a stabbing death on Feb 25, 2014, when Ryan Viri, who was a bouncer for local clubs in the downtown area, followed a patron from the Johnny V’s located at 31 E. Santa Clara Street after he was forced to leave for being rude to customers. Viri worked as a bouncer for the Old Wagon Saloon and Grill, Tres Gringo’s and Johnny V’s. “He was a bouncer around town,” Austin said. However that night Viri had also been drinking heavily. He left the bar with the barred patron, who had carried with him a personal set of work knives he used to cook with.
Just a few blocks from the bar Viri confronted the patron. In self defense the suspect stabbed Viri. He died a short time later from his injuries. A bumper stick has been placed on an empty barrel near the entrance of the Old Wagon Saloon to remember him. “It didn’t make sense to me why he followed the guy like that,” Austin said. According SJPD Ofc. Albert Morales, “a suspect has been arrested in connection with Viri's death”. However despite an arrest, evidence found near the scene cleared the suspect of any wrong doing.
The busiest time for the downtown area has been during the Cinco De Mayo celebration, when SJPD Officers are forced to close down the streets and freeway exits to help mediate traffic through the area when party goers over crowd Santa Clara Street.
With over a million visitors attending New Orleans Bourbon Street, and a reported 895 arrests, San Jose’s Mardi Gras paled in comparison. San Jose Officers felt that the evening had been fairly quiet. One SJPD Officer said, “Many clubs that are usually not open on Tuesday nights are open”. This made for an even mix of patrons to visit several bars in the downtown area. This helped prevent overcrowding in major parts of the downtown area. “There were so few people that actually came downtown, that no place really got packed,” he said. There were only a few arrests reported throughout the night.
Only a few dozen stragglers remained after the bars stop serving at 1:15 AM. A voice echoed over the loud speaker “Last call. Last call to order drinks”. One patron when asked what they had eaten for “Fat Tuesday”said, I had a hamburger with an egg on top called a ‘Sunny Side-up’ I think”. Another patron at Tres Gringo enjoying Mardi Gras’ “Fat Tuesday” said, “I had some chicken thighs at the house, with some spaghetti”. He said, “I was just having some cocktails after that I was just chilling with friends.” With small crowds around town “It’s been really quiet,” he said. “It feels a lot different than past years”.