Crime / Police

Community board demands bars shape up

Damian Poplawski

Community Board 2 opposes a liquor license for this bar/restaurant on Prospect Avenue.

Board pressuring bars to comply with rules…or get out

Community Board 2 is continuing its efforts to shut down bars and strip clubs it regards as magnets for rowdiness, noise or violence. In the latest chapter in its ongoing crusade, the board voted at its January meeting to ask the State Liquor Authority to deny the liquor license application of a bar on Prospect Avenue.

“An owner has to let Community Board 2 know about a liquor license application 30 days in advance,” said District Manager Rafael Salamanca. “We don’t know who the owner is. We found out about the application online.”

Exasperated with Hunts Point’s reputation as a home to sleazy strip clubs, four years ago the community board started using its power to advise on liquor license applications to exercise some control over bars and cabarets. Last year, it established a Franchise Licensing and Permits Committee in order to monitor these establishments more closely.

“We want to make sure owners are selling liquor in a respectful and professional manner that doesn’t affect the quality of life for the residents of the neighborhood,” says Salamanca.

According to Salamanca, S&J Bar at 950 Prospect Ave. relinquished its license as it was expiring, and before selling the bar to the new owner, who has renamed it Oro Bar & Restaurant.  Community Board 2 wants to meet with the new owner and establish conditions in return for supporting a liquor license application.

The owner’s name on the bar’s license application is listed as Jose Cornelio, but the community board has been unable to contact him.

Members of the community board say they don’t oppose bars, but instead want to ensure responsible ownership and management.

“There is nothing wrong with an establishment that wants to sell liquor and follows the rules,” said Community Board 2 member Charlie Samboy. “The problem lies with the operators of these establishments.”

Samboy went on to provide examples of what he called “unqualified ownership” by naming two former strip clubs, Club Eleven and Platinum Pleasures, as well as the Pulse Hookah Bar & Lounge on Southern Boulevard and Aldus Street.

The Hookah bar is an example of the challenges the board faces in its efforts to use the licensing process as leverage. Saying it was concerned that  its location was a high-crime area, the board extracted a promise that the bar would close at 2 a.m., two hours earlier than other bars. Since obtaining its license, though, the bar has remained open past the promised closing time.

Rev. Reggie Stutzman, who recently joined the community board and who is a member of the Franchise Licensing and Permits Committee, has strong views on strip clubs.

“I am not against business,” said Stutzman, “but I am totally against the exploitation of women.”

“If an owner wants to sell beer in his bodega, that’s fine,” he added, “but some of these businesses promote prostitution and sex trafficking.”

Stutzman has expressed interest in purchasing the defunct Platinum Pleasures in order to convert it into a  place of worship for his Real Life Church, which presently has no permanent home and meets at the Hunts Point Recreation Center. That, he says, would be a redemptive story that would contribute to restoring community values.

Crime is a major concern that critics bring up whenever a new owner attempts to open a bar or a club in Hunts Point or Longwood.

“We don’t want to have to pull police resources off the street,” said Salamanca. “We don’t want to have a squad car sitting outside of a bar because it’s causing trouble.”

According to Deputy Inspector Philip Rivera, commander of the 41st Precinct, there were some problems with the former S&J Bar but none that required officers sitting in a patrol car outside the premises, as was the case with establishments like Club Eleven and Platinum Pleasures, where fights, stabbings and shootings had occurred.

“There weren’t any fights,” said Rivera, “but they did have unlicensed cabarets and dancers, and people reported having things stolen inside the bar.”

Rivera backs the community board’s efforts to scrutinize the license applications of Oro Bar & Restaurant and other establishments.

“Ultimately it’s up to the community board’s recommendation,” he said. “If the new owner runs the establishment in the right way there shouldn’t be problems.”

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