Business / Crime

New bar opens where strip club stood

Joe Hirsch

Drinks at the Break Time Bar and Grill.

Shift marks end of Hunts Point’s vice industry, say officials

A new sports bar and restaurant has opened on the site of one of Hunts Point’s notorious strip clubs, signaling what some hope is a change in the way after-hours business on the waterfront will be conducted. The Break Time Sports Bar and Grill will replace Club Heat, which in recent years had been the site of several violent incidents, including a 2012 homicide that sparked community pressure to close the club.

Elected officials, local workers and representatives of Community Board 2 attended the new venue’s official opening on Hunts Point Avenue near the food distribution market on Dec. 19. They hailed the new business as a giant step forward for a neighborhood that for years has been saddled with a reputation as one of the city’s epicenters of sleaze and violence.

The chairman of the community board, Ian Amritt, anticipated Break Time would provide “a place where people can come to enjoy quality of life entertainment without breaking the law.” In addition, he said, it would allow Hunts Point residents and employees a local venue to meet informally to socialize, so that “we don’t have to go the G Bar on the Grand Concourse.”

To emphasize his eagerness to keep the new bar on the straight and narrow, its owner, Nudpanath Bala, has promised to close nightly at 11 p.m., a far cry from the all night hours Club Heat once kept. Police from the 41st Precinct long complained that their resources were overstretched from patrolling the strip clubs to guard against violence that often spilled onto the streets.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo and State Sen. Jeffrey Klein credited their own push for legislation in Albany as a key factor in helping shut down jiggle joints in Hunts Point and other New York neighborhoods. A bill they co-sponsored last year forces the State Liquor Authority to weigh community’s concerns about bars where violence and nuisance violations are frequent. In the past, the agency has relied exclusively on its own investigations to close down problem bars, ignoring local input.

Break Time will cater mainly to businesses from the industrial area, said Bala, who also owns a deli next door. Constant pressure by the community board to shut down Club Heat, along with the violence for which the club had become noted, caused him to open the sports bar instead of another strip club, he added.

Local business people and workers say they are excited about the new addition, and are relieved Club Heat is gone for good.

“We were concerned about the strip club but fortunately you were able to shut it down,” said Joseph Vesecchia, a senior vice president at Signature Bank next door to Break Time, addressing members of the community board.

The new bar on opening day.

Two workers from waste hauling company Mid-Bronx Haulage, on Coster Street, Angelo Sirico and Greg Hayes, came to congratulate Bala, whom they said they had befriended over the years when going for lunch at the deli. Sirico said he was looking forward to a new “end of the day, unwind kind of thing” in the neighborhood. The only place to go to kick back after a hard day’s work until now, Hayes said, was “home.”

Across the street, another vestige of Hunts Point’s recent past sat empty. A metal gate with the words “Adult Entertainment” crudely scrawled across it shuttered the former Harry’s Triangle next to Fratelli’s Restaurant. John Tilli, the owner of Fratelli’s, said he and his two brothers bought out the owner of that former strip club, and are now eager to expand their restaurant in that space. Tilli added he was relieved that his neighbor, Bala, had forgone the skin trade in favor of a bar and grill.

“Club Heat was horrible,” he said. “Someone was killed. I’ve never seen that before.”

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