Unruly and disrespectful late-night crowds have forced a downtown gas station and convenience store to close for a few hours on the weekends.
Staff and owners of Lou Perrine’s Gas and Grocery, 5145 Sheridan Road, said they have been dealing with an escalation of people and cars gathering in the parking lot in the early morning hours, especially after local bars and taverns close.
Because of this, owner Anthony Perrine said he made the decision over the weekend to close the 24-hour business from 2 to 3 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The closure begins this weekend, although Perrine said they performed a trial run in the early morning last Sunday.
Since May, Perrine has been dealing with ever-growing crowds, with as many as 70 vehicles parked in the lot, filling the lanes at the pumps and even between the lanes.
Over the summer, he hired extra security and set up barricades to block off the lot and route patrons to a central checkpoint where an employee would ask if they were there to buy fuel, buy something in the store or get food from a Mexican restaurant at the back of the building.
“You can’t loiter. This isn’t a hangout. We want everybody to have a good time, but you can’t do it in our parking lot. We’re not a bar. I can’t have people drinking in our parking lot,” he said.
At one point, he thought about just shutting down the station after hours.
The last straw
On Friday, Perrine thought the rains would keep the crowds at bay. A fight outside the business, however, spurred him to make the decision to close.
“Somebody says something. One thing leads to another, and I find out a guy in our parking lot is basically getting jumped by like six guys,” he said.
A female employee monitoring the lot was “in the middle of it” and almost got hurt, Perrine said.
“(Staff) called me and I said,‘That’s it. We’re closing.’ The safety of my employees trumps everything. The safety of my patrons trumps everything,” he said.
“So we decided Friday night after that happened that moving forward until the community comes up with a solution or if we figure out where these problems are coming from and all these out-of-towners and the lack of respect they have for our community is coming from, we are basically going to close our lot (late night during the weekend),” he said.
He said many of the vehicles that come through are from Illinois, passing through Kenosha. The Perrines allege after the bars close, those gathering in the lot are on the hunt for “after parties.”
“We’ve become the meeting point, I guess, to everybody who wants to just keep (the party) going,” Perrine said.
Police lend a hand
Perrine said he’s thankful for the help from Kenosha police who’ve monitored and checked in with him over the summer.
“It got to the point where we couldn’t even move people in and out of the parking lot,” he said. “The police came and they came in full force. ... They’ve been great. They’ve been here to help.”
At one point, a “partygoer” mouthed off, swearing at police, Perrine said.
No physical altercations occurred that night, but the potential for escalation caused even more concern.
“My concern is after seeing what he said to the officers, I’m concerned one of the officers is gonna get shot,” he said. “It’s that lack of respect.”
Three weeks earlier, a security staffer was struck by a vehicle that jumped the curb in an attempt to get through the barricades. He ended up on the hood of the vehicle, but was not seriously hurt.
“She (the driver) said he wouldn’t get out of the way. He was trying to tell her the place is closed,” said Lou Perrine. “You see barricades up. This girl jumped the curb. He stopped her, and she kept on going.”
Business takes a hit
Anthony Perrine said the security measures he’s taken to handle the crowds have hurt his business.
“If I had to do this for a whole year, if I had to close for just an hour on Friday and Saturday, we would lose about $40,000 a year in revenue,” he said.
Seasonal regulars, said Lou Perrine, have immediately noticed the difference in the crowds this year. A charter fishing group that has visited Kenosha for the last 11 years said they were troubled.
“The first thing they asked staff when they came down this year was,‘What happened to this place?’” said the older Perrine. “It shouldn’t be our job that we have to close and lose money because somebody else is drawing these people to Kenosha.
“This isn’t something that happens at 9 p.m. These are people starting to come into Kenosha at midnight, and they just come in for two hours and cause chaos in town.”