Wis. Chuck E. Cheese besieged with fights

Town of Brookfield - Five years after Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant hired private security because of excessive calls to police about disturbances, officers are making even more trips for fights and other problems at the children's party restaurant.

Invariably, restaurant officials say, it's the adults, not out-of-control children, causing the worst problems at the restaurant.

"We expect kids to fight at Chuck E. Cheese, but it's the parents," company spokeswoman Brenda Holloway said.

The Town of Brookfield Police responded to the location at 19125 W. Blue Mound Road 81 times since the beginning of 2007, according to police records. Fifteen of those calls involved serious fights, battery or disorderly conduct in progress. The remaining calls included responses for thefts, 911 hang-ups, accidents and other traffic-related matters.

Police were there another 15 times just to walk through the restaurant and parking lot to ensure peace, something the department started doing after another wave of incidents in 2003. There were 40 police responses to the restaurant that year.

Holloway contends the number of fights have actually decreased since security guards, some of whom carry guns, have been added to the payroll for the busy weekends at some Chuck E. Cheese's throughout the country.

"There are a few scattered fights," Holloway said of the 533 restaurants in the United States and Canada. In a perfect world, there would be no fights at a place with the slogan of "Where a kid can be a kid," and the company is baffled by any fighting in the restaurant, she said.

"We don't want that reputation," Holloway said. The publicly traded chain is owned by CEC Entertainment Inc., based in Irving, Texas.

The pizza and Whack-a-Mole games bring high-spirited children's birthday parties in droves to Chuck E. Cheese's, which also serves alcohol to adults.

Town of Brookfield Capt. Tim Imler said he couldn't say for certain that the alcohol is the source of the problem. It may be a matter of too many people in one location, he said.

Not the children

He also agrees with the company spokeswoman that the problems are rarely caused by the children.

"It appears the company is trying to make improvements to create a family-friendly environment but, unfortunately, being open to the public, there is only so much control of who walks through their door," Imler said.

On April 4, police responded to a fight inside the restaurant involving up to 40 people yelling and pushing each other, according to police reports. It was chaos when police arrived. Officers called for mutual aid from the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department and the City of Brookfield. No one would come forward to say who instigated the incident, so there were no arrests.

When town officials first expressed concern about the calls to Chuck E. Cheese's five years ago, they asked the company to hire its own security. That was done.

Then on Feb. 17, 2007, police responded to Chuck E. Cheese's for a fight involving 15 to 20 people. When police arrived, the security guard was standing in the parking lot pointing a gun at 15 people, mostly children ages 6 to 16, lying on the ground. Police allowed the children to sit in their cars until officers could talk to them.

The fight started when one group told another group to be more careful while playing the games because a 1-year-old child was nearly hit by a ball. Words were exchanged between the groups and one person was "getting in people's faces," police reports say. No one was arrested, but one man was given a ticket alleging he lied to officers about his name.

No more armed guards

Following that incident, the Town of Brookfield police told Chuck E. Cheese's they could not have armed guards, Imler said. The town has an ordinance that requires a permit for armed security, which the restaurant did not have.

On Milwaukee's south side, Chuck E. Cheese's resolved problems it was experiencing by voluntarily giving up its liquor license, according to a Milwaukee alderman. The restaurant raised the ire of neighbors and police after police were called to the location at 2701 S. Chase Ave. 18 times in a two-month period in 2006, including once for a fight involving 40 people.

Ald. Tony Zielinski had called for the possible closure of the restaurant and arcade, so the restaurant voluntarily gave up its liquor license in February 2007.

Since then, Zielinski, who has been monitoring the restaurant, said the situation has improved significantly. The company improved the lighting in the parking lot and added armed security guards too. Although Zielinski isn't happy about the armed guards, he contends alcohol served at a restaurant for children was a contributing factor in the problems.

The Chuck E. Cheese's in West Allis, the closest to the Town of Brookfield location, has had 33 calls for police assistance since the beginning of 2007, West Allis Police Lt. Barry Waddell said. Of those calls, one involved an assault, he said.

Imler said it would be up to the Brookfield Town Board to consider revoking the restaurant's liquor license. There has been no discussion, he said.

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