Spring Jam doesn’t worry businesses

Dinkytown owners say they’re taking normal security precautions.

by Nicolas Hallett

Dinkytown business owners say they’re not worried about unruly students during this week’s Spring Jam despite witnessing two chaotic nights after the Gophers men’s hockey team’s NCAA tournament stint.

The annual University of Minnesota event this Thursday through Saturday likely won’t include any unusual precautions from Dinkytown business owners. Many say they will have full staffs and added security, as they always do for Spring Jam.

Vescio’s Italian Restaurant owner Frank Vescio said he watched from the roof of his building as the April 12 Dinkytown melee unfolded. He said he’s seen student unrest in the business district on numerous occasions, dating back to the Red Barn and Vietnam War protests in the 1970s.

“We’ve had plenty of that stuff,” Vescio said. “I didn’t see anything that we would have to worry about [over the weekend]. No one was doing any damage that I could see.”

Vescio said he thinks the media and the University “played up” the notion of rioting, which only encouraged people to come to Dinkytown.

Particularly because his business doesn’t serve alcohol, Vescio said, he’s not worried about this year’s Spring Jam causing havoc.

Dinkytown bar owners said they will have all of their security staff on duty during the festivities and may hire a couple of additional bodies, but they aren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary.

The Library Bar and Grill escaped last weekend unscathed, with no incidents or calls to police, general manager Joe Berg said.

“I measure success on sales and lack of incidents,” he said, “and it was a very successful weekend.”

The Library historically hasn’t had problems during Spring Jam, Berg said. The bar will have a little added security only because of the increased foot traffic the concert creates but not in anticipation of rioting, he said.

“If something does in fact happen,” Berg said, “extra security will prepare us, and we always have a good police presence around Dinkytown.”

Burrito Loco Bar and Grill owner and acting Dinkytown Business Association President Greg Pillsbury said he watched the raucous activity with other business owners April 12. He said they saw students cheer and dance and felt things got “rowdy,” but it was mild in comparison to riots in the past.

Pillsbury said most Dinkytown business owners were present on the night of April 12 and most had full staffs working to counteract the crowds. He said that he credits police and the University for keeping the student mob under control.

This year will be Pillsbury’s 11th Spring Jam as the owner of Burrito Loco. He said that he will have every employee on the clock this year, including security staff, as Spring Jam is one of the bar’s busiest times of the year.

Pillsbury said he expects the University and the city to be prepared for the weekend with another strong police presence. Throughout the years, he said, Burrito Loco has experienced few problems during Spring Jam and Homecoming festivities.

A rowdy history

The scenes on April 10 and 12 were not unfamiliar ones for the University and its surrounding neighborhoods — Gophers men’s hockey inspired riots in both 2002 and 2003.

Berg said he witnessed both before graduating in 2005. He said he doesn’t expect Dinkytown to experience rioting during this year’s Spring Jam because the event hasn’t elicited such activity in the four-block area in the past.

The Spring Jam riot of 2009 took place primarily at the 1300 and 1400 blocks of Seventh Street Southeast. That year, police made 12 arrests after students began partying at 9 a.m. on April 25. That evening, students attempted to flip cars, hurled rocks at police and started multiple fires on the 1300 block of Seventh Street Southeast.

In response, the University shortened the seasonal celebration from six days to three, and police upped their presence the following year.

Vescio, who owns a second location in St. Louis Park, said he has customers who travel from all corners of the Twin Cities. He said Dinkytown’s growing reputation as an epicenter for rowdy activity has discouraged some of those patrons.

“It doesn’t help our business much,” he said. “People don’t come into the area, because they know these things can happen through experience from before.”

Although the students and activity in Dinkytown can “get a little crazy” at times, Vescio said, he doesn’t regret the restaurant location he’s had since 1956.

“Of course you don’t want that kind of thing,” he said. “But we would never move and like being in the area because we like catering to the kids, too.”