UPPER EAST SIDE — Troublesome Upper East Side nightclub Vudu Lounge surrendered its liquor license on Friday amid a number of pending disciplinary charges including selling alcohol to minors, DNAinfo has learned.
The move to give up its license was voluntary, said State Liquor Authority spokesman Michael Smith. It means that the owners of the controversial club, on First Avenue between East 77th and East 78th streets, cannot serve or distribute alcohol of any kind, unless they apply for a new license.
The charges included fighting on the premises and selling alcohol to minors, Smith said. The club was also being charged with "being a focal point of police attention," which means that police resources were being drained by responding to calls connected to Vudu Lounge since 2009.
Over the past several years, Vudu Lounge has drawn the ire of area residents and local elected officials, who claim the velvet-rope club brings late-night noise and rowdy behavior to the area's quiet blocks.
The NYPD shut down the establishment last year over complaints from Community Board 8 and legal problems, but the club reopened, fully licensed, just a few weeks later.
Then, in June 2011, City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin joined State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Micah Kellner in writing a letter to the SLA, claiming it was “ruining the quality of life of this terrific neighborhood” and asking that the agency revoke the club’s liquor license.
"Vudu Lounge has continually shown disdain for the neighborhood that has allowed it to thrive," the officials wrote. "We believe that there is overwhelming evidence to warrant the revocation of Vudu Lounge’s liquor license, and the time has come for the SLA to take definitive action."
The hatred against the lounge stretched down as far as Gramercy. When the club’s manager, Michael Stein, pitched the prospect of a new country and western bar for Third Avenue between East 21st and 22nd streets, residents turned out in force to protest, largely because of Stein’s connection to Vudu Lounge.
Since August, Vudu lounge had been holding regular meetings for the public to discuss community concerns.
"We're trying to be a good neighbor," Stein had said at an October meeting.
It wasn’t immediately clear what had prompted the lounge to surrender its license, and calls and emails to club employees were not immediately returned on Monday. The club’s website was inaccessible, and multiple calls to the club’s main number resulted in busy signals.
But Smith, of the SLA, said that surrendering their license would not spare Vudu Lounge from the pending disciplinary charges.
"It saved them absolutely nothing. We’re looking into taking strong action against this premises," Smith said. "These pending disciplinary charges could lead to a revocation of their license."
Should the SLA decide to revoke the license for Vudu Lounge, the owners would be barred from holding or applying for a liquor license for 24 months, Smith explained.
In addition, the SLA would bring revocation charges against any other businesses the owners are affiliated with, Smith added.
In the meantime, the disciplinary charges pending against Vudu Lounge will be addressed during an upcoming SLA full board meeting at a date still to be determined.
With reporting by Amy Zimmer