Shop pulls chairs to curb the unruly

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— The owner of the popular coffee spot Mocha Molly's has taken away her tables and chairs at the Old Town Square shopping center on Lincoln Avenue. It wasn't unruly dogs that prompted the latest move, but unruly transients.

"We're having a huge problem with a gang of homeless kids," said Teri Shewchuck, owner of Mocha Molly's. "A few inconsiderate customers have ruined it for everyone."

Shewchuck had been under pressure from other shop owners concerning a problem with unleashed dogs bothering customers and leaving behind nasty signs.

But in the end, it was a small group of transients that drove Shewchuck to the brink.

Shewchuck said a small group of the transients got to the point where they were making the shop and the small square their home.

"We've got a free computer and phone set up. They drink a lot of water in Mocha Molly's cups, but I think they've gone past that," Shewchuck said. "They've been confrontational with some of the other shop owners."

The owner of Felix and Fido's next door confirmed she had to call police after a group of the transient youths wouldn't quit singing outside her store.

"This is a business place, not a park," said Felix and Fido owner Jennifer Wilson. "Having this amphitheater-like situation, it was very annoying." Not to mention it was bad singing, Wilson said.

Young fans of Mocha Molly's were disappointed to see the table and chairs disappear from outside but don't really blame the owner.

"It's not her fault she has awesome coffee," resident Dutch Dolan said. "It's the only place to come."

"They were taking a little advantage," added his friend Ryan. "Some people come here and hang out all day. I saw someone on the phone for three hours," he said.

Chairs or no chairs, Dolan and his friends plan to keep coming to the coffee shop before work.

That's the kind of customer Shewchuck wants, but she hopes removing the tables and chairs will deter those who have been "camping out."

Customer Arthur Higbee, a life-time Steamboat resident, said he supports Shewchuck's decision as long as it is not prejudicial.

"If the other business owners are giving her grief, I'm all for her decision. But just because you look scruffy and don't have a penny doesn't mean you don't have the right to be here," Higbee said.

But Old Town Square is private property, not a park, reminded Wilson.

"There are beautiful places by the river with peace and quite and running water," Wilson said. "Why do they sit here when they're not even buying coffee to drink?"

Resident January Zaledzieski said she knows the answer to that.

"It's common ground for everyone. Somewhere to hang out and relax," Zaledzieski said.

Shewchuck and her regular customers admit they have always been treated respectfully by the transients.

"They don't bother me," said customer Clayton Osbourne. "I'm not intimidated by them, but visitors might find it different."

Shewchuck she doesn't want to be unkind but is tired of cleaning up after them every day.

To reach Frances Hohl call 871-4208

or e-mail fhohl@amigo.net

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