By Diane Paik
Old Town Staff Writer
The fatal shooting of a man on November 10, 2011 outside of The Loft in downtown Lansing raises questions about an apparent link between violence and the local bar scene, raising questions about whether Old Town has reason to worry about similar incidents.
The police have named the man in question for shooting and killing 35-year-old Ygnacio “Notch” Bermudez Jr. According to the Lansing State Journal, a felony warrant has been issued for Richard Anthony Strong.
This incident of violence is a concern from the community as it raises concerns about public safety and security around nightlife. Old Town has a few bars and clubs of its own, including the most prominent, Spiral Dance Bar. Known for its gay friendly environment, the club holds lots of events, drawing in a diverse crowd.
A performer at Spiral known by his stage name Elise LaCroix is concerned about the potential for violence. “Although I have never experienced any type of confrontation at all, there is always a concern for people who are against homosexuality to cause a stir,” said LaCroix. “I was surprised that a neighborhood like Old Town even had a gay bar, but then I realized how accepting Old Town can be.”
Businesses like Spiral can be affected by such events of violence as the attendance count may drop or people may be concerned about their safety.
“I think the shooting is regarded as an isolated event because I have not seen any change in the number of audience members or any talk of worry about safety,” added LaCroix. “Since my time here, I haven’t personally seen any violence, but I have heard of some previous altercations.”
Joey Twomey works the door and security at Spiral, and he is yet to see any sort of violence worth concern.
“A couple drag queens started fighting, but it wasn’t anything bad,” said Twomey. “This was four months ago though, and I’m pretty sure it ended as quickly as it started.”
Other employees at Spiral declined to be interviewed.
Violence also occurred during Oktoberfest in Old Town. Dana Burke, 22, is a student at Michigan State University and attended Oktoberfest the night of the stabbing.
“I was not around when the stabbing actually happened because it was after Oktoberfest was over, but it is scary to hear that such an awful thing happened right where I was, “said Burke. “I didn’t feel unsafe or in danger during the festival; rather I was just having a good time with my friends and I had no concern for my safety.”
Alcohol use may have been involved with both of these isolated events. “When beer and liquor are involved, someone usually gets hurt,” said Burke.