Business owners to meet with Harrisburg leaders about late-night security

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - Bar and restaurant owners on Second Street will meet behind closed doors with city leaders Thursday to discuss ways the neighborhood can be made safer after several violent incidents last weekend.

Two people were shot in the leg around 2:30 Sunday morning after the bars closed, several fistfights broke out and police had to use pepper spray to disperse crowds.

In response, bar and restaurant owners sought a meeting with Mayor Eric Papenfuse and Police Chief Thomas Carter, suggesting a first step toward better coordination between law enforcement and what the establishments do for security.

"They do care about the safety in the streets late night, which is very important," said Erik Sohadze, co-owner and general manager of Capital Gastropub. "I hope we can communicate with each other and do our best in order to prevent any particular situations again."

On Sunday morning, Sohadze says the rowdy behavior began down the street before making its way closer to his establishment. The other bars and restaurants in the neighborhood declined comment to FOX43 for this story.

Guests say the area has potential, but might need some extra attention.

"You really have the great environment that we just need to maybe start focusing on law enforcement and having a little bit more of a focus in this downtown area, so that people feel comfortable," said Kristen Tullo, an area resident.

"We could use some more police officers around late night on those nights that people are out and about to hopefully maybe prevent [violence]," said Julia Elshide, who lives in Harrisburg. "I think that's a great idea."

For his part, Sohadze says his business has up to eight security officers on-site every Friday and Saturday night, and guests are scanned and searched before they are allowed in.

"This is how we fight against [security issues] because we fight against the crime as much as the police does," he said. "We're not interested in any problems. We're not interested in any issues to take place next to our establishment."