MILWAUKEE -- The last call for St. Patrick's Day came much sooner than usual for bars along Milwaukee's Water Street. This, after multiple fights broke out in the street.
Witnesses tell FOX6 News, the bars stopped serving and began kicking people out of their establishments around 1 a.m.
A YouTube video posted overnight shows some of the chaos that broke out. Milwaukee police on horseback and on foot dispersed the crowds. We have not heard officially if there were any arrests from this scene.
IMPORTANT: Graphic language can be heard in the video below.
By 2 a.m., the scene captured by FOX6 News cameras was much calmer.
FOX6 News spoke Sunday with Joshua Janis, who owns McGillycuddy's and Red Rock Saloon and also serves as president of the Water Street Association. These bars were among those that closed early Saturday after police decided they needed to disperse the violent crowds on Water Street. "(Closing early) was a tough decision to make because ultimately, this is a business and we're going to lose money. However, the police, I think, handled themselves very well, and I think ultimately, they made the right decision," Janis said.
Janis says an establishment's bottom line is nothing compared to Water Street's reputation. "We want to make sure Water Street is looked upon as Milwaukee's entertainment district, and as Milwaukee's entertainment district, we want to make sure everyone feels comfortable," Janis said.
Steve White is the man who shot the YouTube video as fights broke out on Water Street Saturday night. White says the bars were crowded, but the situation didn't escalate until after the bars closed. "You never know what you catch when you have your camera on you. As soon as you came out, you could feel it getting intense. You could feel everything build and build, little arguments here and there," White said.
The man behind the viral YouTube clip believes the violence could have been avoided, but says with so many people leaving the Water Street bars at once, something was bound to happen. "If they just had it die down on itself, it would've been more peaceful. We were already getting tired of standing anyways, so they could've let it die down," White said.
The customer and the owner disagree on whether closing was the right thing to do, but both want to enjoy Water Street and Janis says he hopes next year's St. Patrick's Day celebration will include regular business hours. "This week, I'm going to meet with (Milwaukee Police) Captain (Stephen) Bastings to go over what happened. I also have plans to contact our aldermen and give them some of my ideas I think would benefit the street," Janis said.
Janis says he would like to see Water Street blocked off from traffic between McKinley and Highland where the Water Street Brewery is. He says that would give people fewer ways to get in, which would make it easier for police to keep an eye on who's coming and going.
Sunday, March 18th, Milwaukee police issued the following statement regarding Saturday night's incidents: "Milwaukee Police did an outstanding job handling the mass of humanity that swarmed into downtown Saturday. Officers moved the thousands of party-goers out of the downtown area without them taking up the party elsewhere. One fight was captured on video and was an isolated incident involving a few people.
It should also be noted that MPD asked the taverns on Water to close voluntarily, which they did. We did that after bottles were tossed at the police and the crowds became so large that they were not even going into the taverns anymore, they were just hanging on the sidewalks. That was at about 12:30 a.m. We did not ask the bars on Old World 3rd St. or Milwaukee St. to close. Those areas had high levels of activity, but the crowd behavior was much different.
An excellent job by Milwaukee Police Officers in controlling the crowd activity."