Tavern owner plans to focus on safety

Eastside Tavern owner Sal Nuccio said he will run for First Ward Councilman with the goal of serving more than alcohol to people trying to enjoy downtown Columbia.

Nuccio said he expects to file paperwork in the upcoming weeks with his intent to run in next April's election.

"It's going to be hard to win, and I'm aware of it, but I'm going through with it anyway," Nuccio said.

Karen Baxter, John Clark and Paul Sturtz turned in their paperwork at the City Clerk's Office on Oct. 26, the first day for filing. Marlon Jordan and incumbent Almeta Crayton have also said they will run.

Candidates need 50 signatures from registered First Ward voters, but the signatures cannot overlap with another candidate's. Nuccio said he's waiting to get the maximum 75 signatures to be safe. A misunderstanding with the clerk's office about the window of time for turning in the packet led him to take his time.

"I wasn't in a rush," Nuccio said. "I figured I had all this time, so I'd just get quality

signatures."

Nuccio's signatures come from people he encounters downtown, whom he recognizes and speaks with.

"I don't want to go door to door because I think that's corny," he said. "I don't want to hassle people."

Nuccio said the primary concern that prompted him to run in the election is crime in the downtown area.

"I'm tired of vandalism," he said.

One night, about 30 tires were slashed on the streets, including his, he said. In an unrelated incident another day, an Eastside Tavern window was kicked in twice.

"When a situation like that happens to a struggling small business, that comes out of my pocket," Nuccio said.

He said police officers couldn't pursue the offense at Eastside Tavern without a witness to the crime.

Nuccio said he wants to combat incidents such as the one at his bar by posting patrol officers in key downtown "hot-spots," such as the corners adjoining Broadway, Cherry, Hitt and Tenth streets and near popular hangouts such as The Blue Fugue.

"The cops can't do their job because they need to see witnesses," Nuccio said. "If there's already a cop sitting there, now you have a witness."

What Nuccio doesn't want is an intimidating authoritative presence, but he believes enough of a presence could deter would-be offenders, he said.

"You'd be surprised how much crime would be greatly reduced just to have a friendly cop around who knows bar owners and knows the community," he said. "But people shouldn't be afraid of police presence."

First Ward resident Bill Haring, who supports Nuccio, said no one knows downtown Columbia better than Nuccio, who used to own The Penguin Dueling Piano Bar before buying Eastside Tavern across the street.

"He's been around the block," Haring said.

Support from customers helped transform what was once just an idea Nuccio had into a tangible possibility.

"It sort of snowballed from 'This might be a good idea' into 'Hey, I think I'm going to run, and I think I can win this,'" Eastside Tavern manager Big Pants said.

Nuccio said he plans to approach community concerns unrelated to vandalism by taking complaints and advice on his Myspace.com Web page and by holding monthly meetings for the community at his tavern.

"The best way to serve a community is to listen to what they have to say," he said. "This stuff about getting involved with the council is to try and get help for a city."

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