Nfld. & Labrador

Biker gang rumours put George Street owners on edge

Rumours that a biker gang might be looking for a perch on George Street have made owners on the popular St. John's club strip nervous.

'Biker gangs are bad for business,' business group leader says

Seamus O'Keefe says bar owners on George Street want biker gangs kept out. (CBC)

Rumours that a biker gang might be trying to set up a chapter in St. John's have made bar owners on the city’s popular George Street club strip nervous.

Seamus O'Keefe, executive director of the George Street Association, said he's heard the rumour that the Hells Angels or another biker group is looking to take over a bar in the area.

"Biker gangs are bad for business, and bad for George Street's reputation," O'Keefe told CBC News.

George Street draws thousands of patrons each week. (CBC )

"It hurts them right in the balance book. It's their livelihood … George Street is an iconic entertainment district, and we want to keep it that way."

It's estimated that about 5,000 people move through George Street on any given weekend. O'Keefe said bar owners are nervous about talk that a gang may be looking for a perch. 

"There has been a sense from the information we share amongst our bar owners that there is an increased presence," said O'Keefe.

O'Keefe said there's not a lot of real estate on the street. "They would have to move into an existing bar," he said.

On Thursday, the association met with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to discuss an increase in numbers of gang members and gang-related violence.

Last week's suspected firebombing on Hamilton Avenue and a drive-by shooting on Dauntless Street has the RNC believing that biker gangs were involved.

Not the typical bar skirmish

O'Keefe said bar staff have witnessed a number of physical assaults in the last four to six weeks that went beyond typical skirmishes. He added there has also been a presence of gang "colours" in various bars.

"We tend to believe that these are all related in some capacity, related to biker groups. We [the association] are taking proactive measures with our frontline security and doormen to properly train and educate them in what to do in certain situations, and who to call," said O'Keefe.

The association recently conducted an extensive stakeholder analysis, and want a regular police patrol on George Street. Meanwhile, police want bar owners and staff to contact them as soon as a suspected gang member walks in the door.

"Early detection is key to understand that there is a presence in your establishment, and to contact the right authorities to make decisions at that time."