DES MOINES, IOWA — After 45 years of serving up pasta in the Court Avenue District of downtown Des Moines, The Old Spaghetti Works closed for good on Monday night with no notice. Employees learned that day that the restaurant would close for good after the evening’s dinner service. On Tuesday the doors were locked and a sign in the window thanked customers for decades of dedicated patronage.
The owners of the restaurant say it failed to recover from the loss of business during the pandemic. The company also blame a perception of danger in the area – something with which local police do not concur.
“I think there’s a perception … of it not being safe anymore on Court Avenue so people are not traveling down,” Shelly Stokes, a corporate representative, told WHO 13. “We don’t see that problem. We’ve never seen that problem,” she says, but “talking to various people in the Des Moines area that seems to be the ongoing message. They don’t want to come to Court Avenue because they don’t feel safe”
The Des Moines Police Department says the numbers don’t back up those statements. Sgt. Paul Parizek says crime in the district is down in recent years and on pace to be down again this year. As many longtime Des Moines residents can attest, it is also a significantly safer and visitor-friendly district than it has been in previous decades that the restaurant has remained opened without complaint.
Parizek released this full statement:
“The Court Avenue Entertainment District, like everywhere else, has experienced some “rebound” pains as recovery from the pandemic continues. Instances of high-profile criminal incidents in the District certainly impacted the perception of safety there.Sergeant Paul Parizek, Des Moines Police Department
Preserving the safety of those who live, work, and socialize in the neighborhood has always been a priority of the Des Moines Police Department, and we have maintained a steady presence on the streets and sidewalks there for many years. The visibility, and accessibility, of our foot-patrol officers on the weekends and during large events has been well-received from business owners, visitors, and residents throughout the District.
We have seen a decrease in both crimes and overall calls for service in the Court Avenue Entertainment District. For example, Assaults went from 57 in 2021 to 30 in 2022, a 47% decrease. As we near the end of the first quarter of 2023, we are on pace for a decrease from the 2022 number.
Examining a random selection of police calls for service to five business addresses in the Court Avenue Entertainment District shows that each has decreased between 2022 and 2023 YTD.
The men and women of the Des Moines Police Department take great pride in our crime prevention efforts, and those are often very difficult to measure as they aren’t always something you can hold in your hand. What you see in these numbers provided is the result of great public and private partnerships, and a common goal to keep the entire Court Avenue Entertainment District thriving.”
Spaghetti Works employees themselves did not express any concerns about safety at the restaurant which closed at 9:00 p.m. on weekend evenings.