After melee, Ohio shopping mall's youth restrictions begin

An upscale suburban Cleveland shopping mall where police broke up a post-Christmas melee with pepper spray joined other shopping complexes in Ohio and the U.S. on Friday in restricting children 17 and under from entering during certain weekend hours.

Beachwood Place announced new rules this week that juveniles must be accompanied by a parent or an adult 21 years or older after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The new rules were put in place less than two weeks after police and security officials in Beachwood and at malls in other states were confronted by large groups of people fighting and causing disturbances on Dec. 26. Hundreds of people were reportedly involved in the Beachwood Place melee.

Beachwood police arrested one juvenile that night and this week arrested a 14-year-old girl and a 41-year-old woman after viewing an online video of a fight in the mall's food court. Police said the woman was encouraging juveniles to fight.

Law enforcement authorities have said the disturbances may have been spurred by social media. Problems also were reported the same day, usually a busy shopping day, at malls in Colorado, Connecticut, Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas and Pennsylvania. No evidence has emerged that the disturbances were coordinated nationally.

None of the other malls where problems occurred have invoked restrictions thus far, said a spokeswoman for the industry trade group, International Council of Shopping Centers.

Chicago-based General Growth Properties, the owner of Beachwood Place, has similar restrictions at some of its malls outside Ohio. Beachwood Place management and a spokeswoman could not be reached for comment Saturday about whether any problems were reported Friday night. The new rules call for mall security guards to be stationed at entrances to ask teens and their adult supervisors to show identification. Unaccompanied children must leave the mall at 5 p.m.

The Beachwood Place senior general manager Neisha Vitello issued a statement earlier this week that said the mall's "Parental Guidance Required" policy would be "strictly and uniformly enforced." The statement said the policy is intended to "enhance the shopping experience in ways the entire community will appreciate."

Stephanie Cegielski, the trade group spokeswoman, provided a list of just over 100 malls and shopping complexes in the U.S. with weekend restrictions. There are more than 1,200 shopping malls in the U.S. Restrictions have been in place at some malls and shopping complexes for more than a decade.

Cegielski said the trade group organized a conference call for mall owners and managers after the Dec. 26 incidents to discuss what happened, how security responded and how malls can prevent disturbances from occurring in the future.

"This year, because it was a long holiday weekend, some anticipated they could have problems," Cegielski said.

Privately owned shopping malls have the right to enforce such restrictions on juveniles, said Gary Daniels, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. Legal problems would surface only if a mall discriminates in how the rules are enforced, he said.

"If the way this shakes out that they're only going to hassle the black kids and never ask the white kids, that would present a problem," Daniels said.


This story has been corrected to show that the restrictions at Beachwood Place are for children 17 and under, not under 17.