Unsupervised teens on Valpo movie nights raise concerns
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent July 5, 2014 11:22PM
Groups of teens congregate in downtown Valparaiso recently. Some business owners have complained that the groups have cst them business. | James D. Wolf Jr.~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 6, 2014 2:03AM
VALPARAISO — On Central Park movie nights, businesses along Lincolnway expect to police hundreds of preteens and teens wandering downtown instead of watching the movie.
Parents drop them off, and hundreds of young people — many younger than 16 — congregate at the courthouse and in the alleys or wander the streets, often until well after the movie ends.
Some business owners said their outdoors plants are uprooted or damaged and they’ve heard complaints of kids using foul language in front of families and darting into traffic from between parked cars.
On July 1, a boy wearing a werewolf mask skateboarded through the intersection of Franklin Street and Indiana Avenue without stopping for traffic.
“The kids are OK,” said Mary Koselke, co-owner of Blackbird Cafe, 114 Lincolnway. “There’s just so many of them, and there are a couple troublemakers. You can’t get hundreds of kids in one place without there being trouble.”
Blackbird’s owners become bouncers to the overcrowding number of kids that come in, not ordering anything, bringing food from other places and sometimes breaking property.
Pat Berning of Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor, 222 Lincolnway, said she’s also had to enforce a “buy or leave” policy and has broken up kids sitting on each other’s laps and making out in her store.
“Kids have to learn what you tolerate,” Berning said.
Movie nights increase her business, and she literary sweeps money off the floor at closing, she said. However, she and others have concerns about what happens outside their businesses.
Tina St. Aubin, executive director at Valparaiso Events, said this year her organization has added two police officers at the park where her group has the movies and two along Lincolnway after hearing about problems last year.
She also noted that when they moved the movie “Frozen” to a Monday night, police said there weren’t the crowds of kids, and she thinks it might be similar for the last two movies on Thursday nights — “Casablanca” on July 17 and “The Maltese Falcon” on Aug. 14.
Her organization is trying to do something good for the community and families, but they make decisions on how it affects the business and the community, she said.
Valpo Velvet at 55 Monroe St. also sees an increase in business, but customers tend to be high-schoolers.
“They come in and spend money and so far have respected our property,” manager Cathy Brown said.
She also knows most of them from substitute teaching, she said.
South Bend Chocolate Cafe manager Amy Philp and Koselke said it’s a trade-off of business from regular customers for the kids, and they do a bit less business.