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Editorial: Close Chuck E. Cheese's

The Chuck E Cheese’s restaurant chain advertises itself as “a place where a kid can be a kid.” That may be true at the Amherst location, but there have been way too many cases of adults there spoiling the fun.

The Town of Amherst has threatened to revoke the restaurant’s game room license and spoken to the state Liquor Authority about taking away its license to sell beer and wine. But the fights and incidents of violence at the facility show that the town needs to go further: Chuck E. Cheese’s at Harlem Road and Sheridan Drive needs to be shut down.

As Amherst Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa said last week, these are not actions to be taken lightly. “I’m not in the business of shutting people down,” Kulpa told The News. “(But) at the end of the day, we want a safe environment.”

The statistics are staggering. Over the past three years, there have been 123 police calls logged from the restaurant’s address, or roughly 3.4 per month. The Town Attorney’s Office noted that 19 of them were especially alarming, primarily involving fights. The News reported on three particularly violent altercations, including one in March 2017 in which a woman’s face was slashed with a box cutter in the parking lot.

The Chuck E. Cheese’s chain has been around nationally since 1977. They have a pizza-centric menu and specialize in hosting kids’ birthday parties. The environment encourages adults to relax with pizza, beer or wine — alcohol is served in about 70 percent of locations — while their children entertain themselves with video games and other attractions.

The Wall Street Journal published a story 10 years ago about troubles at many of the chain’s locations around the country. In Brookfield, Wis., police were called to break up 12 fights at Chuck E. Cheese’s over a two-year period, the article noted. And a search for Chuck E. Cheese’s fights on YouTube leads to a frightening number of incidents.

Clearly the Amherst location has worn out its welcome. First, an establishment that is set up to appeal to children can hardly be called family-friendly when some of the patrons are getting into fights.

Second, if Chuck E. Cheese’s were a bar, it would have already exhausted the patience of the state Liquor Authority. Assemblyman Raymond Walter, a Republican whose district includes the Harlem Road facility, has urged the authority to take away the venue’s license to sell beer and wine.

“If that was a regular bar that had 123 police calls, do you think the Liquor Authority would have hesitated to pull their license at this point?” Walter asked.

The third reason to shut down the facility is that the many calls to the Amherst police are tying up law enforcement personnel whose time could be put to better use. Taxpayers fund the police department and too much of their money is being spent on handling calls from just one restaurant.

Chuck E. Cheese’s ownership, CEC entertainment of Texas, has pledged to be cooperative with the town, to increase security at the Amherst facility, and to try to put these problems behind them. But it’s gone on too long, and short of hiring armed guards to patrol the floor and having patrons pass through metal detectors or have their irises scanned, it doesn’t seem reasonable that these problems are going to go away. The time has come to shut the doors and be rid of this public nuisance.

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