Police Bust Several Bronx Hot Spots, With Help from the Community Board
LONGWOOD — Rafael Salamanca Jr. has led marches, lobbied state officials, testified at hearings and teamed up with lawmakers to drive rowdy clubs out of the community.
But this month, the district manager of Community Board 2 went a step further — he strapped on a bulletproof vest, signed a waiver for his life and joined the police as they busted several bars.
“It got the owners’ attention,” Salamanca said. And, “I got to see what the issues were, so now when these guys come for [liquor license] renewals, we know.”
The 41st Precinct conducted two joint operations with other agencies this month targeting a half-dozen local bars and clubs, where they found unlicensed bouncers, illicit dance floors, blocked exits, disorderly crowds and large amounts of drugs, according to Salamanca and reports from the police and a state agency.
The most recent raid, on March 22, netted seven criminal summonses and 11 arrests, including several for cocaine possession, according to the reports.
During the late-night raid, investigators from the state Workers’ Compensation Board issued more than $600,000 in fines for missing insurance and ordered four locations to immediately halt business, according to a report by that agency.
The six targeted establishments were among the most troublesome in the area, the report noted.
“All these locations are really problematic spots for the precinct,” the WCB report said. “There have been multiple fights, assaults, narcotics and gun runs.”
One targeted spot was Club Eleven, a Hunts Point strip joint that has inflamed residents and police with its bloody history of shootings, stabbings, fights and a sexual assault.
The club at 1152 Randall Ave. was ordered closed during Friday’s operation and the owner, Patrick Aryee, was arrested for failing to obtain workers’ compensation coverage.
The task force also visited Ebony Lounge, a late-night Longwood spot with a lengthy infraction record, which was fined $298,000 for insurance violations and ordered to suspend business, according to the report.
When police barged into the club during the earlier raid, on March 16, the air was thick with the smell of marijuana and one person was in the middle of rolling a joint, according to Salamanca, who participated in that operation.
After searching everyone in the lounge at 921 E. 163rd Street, police arrested a DJ, bouncer and patron on drug possession charges, Salamanca added.
“They had bags and bags of marijuana,” he said.
In the past, Ebony Lounge has been cited for underage drinking, gambling and unlicensed guards, according to the police report.
On New Year’s Eve, the club erupted into a violent brawl that involved the DJ and a bouncer, who later tangled with cops and was found in possession of a knife and marijuana, Salamanca said.
"That is a chronic location for us," said Lt. Dawit Fikru of the 41st Precinct. "We respond there on a regular basis."
Police ticketed L & J Tavern at 658 Dawson Street for a disorderly premise, an obstructed exit and for refusing inspection, according to the police report. Seven people were arrested for drug possession, including cocaine, according to the police and WCB reports.
S & J Bar at 950 Prospect Avenue was ticketed for having a dance floor but no cabaret license, according to police. The WCB slapped it with a $30,000 fine and an order to halt business.
Hermosilla Café at 1288 Westchester Avenue landed a stop-work order and a $288,000 fine. The owner was arrested for lacking workers compensation insurance.
Nearby, La India Restaurant at 1298 Westchester Avenue was ticketed for selling alcohol to an intoxicated patron and for having no security roster. Its owners were also arrested for lacking insurance.
Jorge Sanchez, owner of La India, said the police tickets were unwarranted and that he has workers' compensation insurance, though the documents may not have been posted.
Patrick Aryee of Club 11 and Florizel Hendricks, Ebony Lounge’s owner, did not respond to requests for comment left with their lawyers.
Owners of the other establishments could not be reached for comment.
Salamanca and the board have waged a fierce, ongoing campaign against unruly clubs, which they say breed violence, promote prostitution, sap police resources and deter business investment.
They recently established a special committee just to oversee license applications, whose meetings the local precinct commander makes sure to attend.
Due to their joint efforts, some beleaguered hot spots have shipped out and others have been denied licenses by the state.
“Two years ago, we had four strip clubs — today we have two,” CB2 chairman Ian Amritt said at a recent meeting. “Let’s see what next year brings.”