The teen owners of a proposed under-21 dance club won't be getting an endorsement from Middletown's Public Safety Commission when they appear before town council next month.
Citing unresolved security concerns, the commission voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend town council deny a conditional use permit the 18-year-old owners need before they can open the club – called Antrics – in the Middletown Square Shopping Center.
"I think, big picture, it's not good for kids," commission member Milton Hilliard said after the vote. "It's an accident waiting to happen … They don't have any kind of [security plan] and I don't want the people of Middletown to get hurt from their mistakes while they try to get it right."
Wednesday's meeting was the second time the proposed dance club has come before the public safety commission.
Last month, commission members postponed making a recommendation so owners Antonino Piraino and Eric Mears could have more time to respond their numerous questions regarding their plans for security and crowd control.
During that hearing, commission members asked whether the club owners would agree to provide a minimum security presence consisting of two off-duty Middletown police officers and three private security guards. Piraino and Mears said they would agree to that condition, although they pointedly declined to say whether the cost of doing so would affect their ability to stay afloat.
On Wednesday, Mears, who appeared before the commission without Piraino, said the club would only be able to afford one off-duty Middletown police officer at $70 per hour, in addition to three security guards.
Under questioning, he also confirmed that neither he nor Piraino had met with Middletown Police Chief Henry Tobin to discuss the availability of off-duty officers, as directed by the commission.
Mears, however, said they had agreed to make several changes to their original proposal, including raising the minimum age from 14 to 15 and requiring teens 17 and younger to leave by 10 p.m., rather than midnight, in order to meet the town's curfew for juveniles.
But their decision to keep the club open until 11 p.m. for young adults between the ages of 18 and 20 resulted in commission members raising additional concerns, including how staff would be able to distinguish the ages of patrons, some of whom would be too young to have driver's licenses.
"We would ask them questions like when were they born or when will they graduate," Mears said.
"You don't think they'll lie to you," commission member Frank Bailey responded. "You're naïve."
Commission members also expressed concern when Mears said he and Piriano have no plans in place for handling a fight, stabbing or other emergency.
"There is nothing guaranteeing that nothing will happen," Mears said. "What we're going to do is try our best and if it does get out of hand, we'll take a step back, analyze the situation and try to figure out the best thing to do."
Page 2 of 2 - Community member Don Griffith said he cannot support what he described as a "trial and error" approach to security.
"I don't have any kids I'm willing to sacrifice until you get it right," he said. "And from past experience as a police officer, I can't see you getting it right. There's too many ands, ifs or buts."
Tobin gave Mears a similar assessment.
"Every question we've asked you tonight, you don't have a solid answer for," he said. "I get the impression that you've come here very unprepared for the things you should be addressing … I think you need to go back to the drawing board and do more research on this thing."
Although the public safety commission recommended the club be denied a conditional use permit, its vote comes two months after the town's planning and zoning commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the teen's application.
Middletown Town Council, which postponed a vote in June in favor of seeking input from the public safety commission, is now expected to make a final decision on the permit application Aug. 5.