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Bloomington Police closing a busy downtown block before bar closing time on weekends

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WGLT
Bloomington Police will close the 500 block of North Main Street on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights one hour before the bars close.

Bloomington Police will close the center of the downtown bar district to vehicle traffic on weekends, just before the bars close.

The 500 block of North Main Street will be shut down on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights one hour before closing time — from midnight-1 a.m. on Thursdays, and from 1-2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Bloomington Police officer John Fermon said the department closed the street intermittently last fall, based on the size of the gatherings outside the bars. The street closings went on hiatus over the winter break when students were mostly gone and the bars were less crowded.

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John Fermon

He said closing the 500 block of North Main makes the area safer for pedestrians and bar patrons.

“You’ve got hundreds, or even thousands of people, on one block and then sometimes it’s even in the 600 block,” Fermon said. “Alleviating a lot of those issues is spreading people out. We’ve had people get into fights over people bumping into each other.”

Fermon said the 500 block of North Main also has been made more dangerous by all the ride-share vehicles and people walking into traffic to catch their rides.

“Every night (we are) just lucky to not see somebody stumbling off the sidewalk into the street,” Fermon said. “There’s been hundreds of near misses. We are lucky that doesn’t happen more often.”

Fermon said removing vehicle traffic also makes it easier for officers to respond quickly when there's a disturbance, adding he's nearly been struck by a moving vehicle several times in that block when he worked downtown enforcement.

"I don't want to call it Frogger, but we have to get across the street," quipped Fermon in a nod to the classic video game, "but we have to get across the street safely before we can intervene in a fight.

"It alleviates a lot of that extra stress, you have to wait and look to cross the street."

Fermon said BPD wanted to make the policy more consistent and to make the public aware so patrons can plan accordingly. He said the department plans to keep the policy in place for the foreseeable future.

Fermon said people who are seeking ride share or taxi services should be picked up on Market Street, on Main Street south of the road closure, and Center Street.

Bloomington police responded to the 500 block of North Main Street at 2 a.m. Jan. 23 for a report of shots fired. Officers found that a bar window in the 600 block of North Main had been damaged by gunfire.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.