Rowdy Hell's Kitchen Clubgoers Force Diner to Close Early, Owner Says

By Mathew Katz on September 21, 2012 7:46am 

HELL'S KITCHEN — The owner of a West 57th Street diner claims he was forced to close shop early because legions of rowdy partiers from Providence nightclub made life a "living hell" for his customers.

For six years, the Moonrock Diner stayed open for 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays, catering to a bustling clientele of locals, tourists and night owls. But that came to an end last year, after hundreds of clubgoers heading to the 13,500-square-foot hotspot blocked off the diner's entrance and disrupted customers' meals, owner George Chritis claimed.

The diner between Eighth and Ninth avenues now closes it doors at 11 p.m. to avoid the commotion, costing Chritis a significant amount of his business, he said.

"They destroyed my place," he explained. "I can't go on like this.

Chritis claimed the "400 or 500" people lined up outside his restaurant on weekends block the door and get into brawls. He also said that drunken clubgoers have slashed up his booths, eaten food without paying and ripped bathroom sinks off the walls, forcing him to reinforce them with steel beams.

He added that the problem began a year ago, when the club switched promoters — shifting its parties from catering to an LGBT clientele to what Chritis and other neighbors called a "hip-hop crowd."

"The gay crowd was very good — they behaved, they bought food, I liked them," he said. "The hip-hop crowd, it's bad. It's trouble."

It's gotten so bad that three employees quit their jobs at the diner, including one security guard that Chritis said lasted only six weeks.

"I called 911, I called 311," he said, "and nothing happens."

Providence was built into an old Baptist church building at 311 W. 57th St., which spent time as a recording studio and housed '90s hot spot Le Bar Bat before transforming into a nightclub. It can host events of up to 1,300 people, according to its website, as well as weddings and Bar Mitzvahs along with its weekly parties.

At its September meeting, Community Board 4 voted to ask the State Liquor Authority to deny the club's upcoming liquor license renewal, citing "ongoing violence and police presence," the fact that "residents regularly call NYPD" and that "neighborhood merchants must close early due to violent behavior from Providence patrons."

Metronome Hospitality Group, the club's owners, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Moonrock Diner is not the only building on the block having problems with the massive club. Several residents of neighboring buildings said the nightclub has created a dangerous situation on the street, at a recent meeting of the NYPD's Midtown North Precinct Community Council.

"There are very serious things going on at Providence that are putting in danger not only businesses around there, but also people who live there," said Raul Larios, a Community Board 4 member who lives on the block.

Pasquale D'Onofrio, resident-manager at 301 W. 57th St., said tenants in his luxury high-rise are afraid to leave their building when crowds are waiting to get into the club, and that he warned elderly tenants not to leave the building when the crowds are outside.

"They just want to go out, but they're afraid," he said. "They make a big investment in the area, and they're trapped.

He added that in January 2011, two Providence customers got into a fight outside of the building, resulting in one slamming into and breaking its glass entrance. The club eventually paid to repair it, he said.

Victoria Berger, 66, said the noise from crowds gets worse throughout the night and is loud enough that she can hear it from her 14th-floor apartment facing the street.

"The noise was horrendous," she said. "And my doorman, he warned me. He said, 'Don't go out.'"

Police from the Midtown North precinct said they were aware of issues at the club.

"I know the owner of the club," said Inspect Timothy Beaudette, the precinct's commanding officer. "If I have to put some cops up there, we'll give it some extra attention."

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