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Hunts Point Community Board Fights 3 Clubs With Violent Records

By Patrick Wall | January 31, 2013 9:51am

HUNTS POINT — In the latest skirmish in its war against rowdy clubs, a local community board is lobbying the State Liquor Authority to close two nightspots and block a third from renewing its liquor license.

In the past, Community Board 2 members have rallied outside violence-prone clubs and testified against them in hearings and in letters to state officials.

Now, the board is targeting the late-night Longwood hangout, Ebony Lounge, and the Hunts Point strip joints Club Eleven and Club Heat, which have been the sites of wild rumbles and recurring code violations.

“I’m tired of hearing the gunshots when I’m in bed,” said Orlando Marin, a former board chairman who, like other residents, says the clubs spark violence, siphon police resources and sully the neighborhood's image. “It’s a vicious cycle that we keep fighting.”

At a January meeting, the board voted unanimously to endorse the 41st Police Precinct’s recommendation that Ebony Lounge be shuttered under the city’s nuisance abatement law.

Police slapped the bar at 921 E. 163rd St. with more than 40 tickets last year, including for after-hours drink sales and patrons smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol outside a rear entrance, according to the board’s liquor licensing chairman, Robert Crespo.

“I was really shocked by what was going on,” Crespo said.

On New Year’s Eve, the lounge erupted into a violent brawl that involved the club’s DJ and a bouncer, who later tangled with cops and was found in possession of a knife and marijuana, according to the board’s district manager, Rafael Salamanca Jr.

Police forwarded the Liquor Authority a list of summonses they have issued to the lounge — including 11 violations on a single night this month — and are waiting for the SLA to file charges before pursuing a legal closing order, according to an officer in the 41st Precinct.

“Everything’s ready to go as soon as that hammer goes down,” at the state agency, the officer said. “If it goes down, then we proceed with our legal department.”

The phone number listed for Ebony Lounge was not in service Wednesday and the bar’s front gate was locked.

In nearby Hunts Point, which is zoned to allowed strip clubs, a string of shootings, stabbings, fights and a sexual assault have swirled around Club Eleven, a strip joint at 1152 Randall Ave., since it opened in 2009, according to officials.

In July, five men were slashed and two shot in a feud that spilled from that club onto the street.

As a result, the Liquor Authority has charged the club with more than 20 infractions — including for on-site brawls and women soliciting male patrons for “immoral purposes” — and launched disciplinary hearings.

Still, just days after the latest hearing in December, a fight broke out in the club on New Year’s Eve and a man’s face was slashed, according to Salamanca.

“No matter how good they say their security is, they have no control over the type of clientele they bring in or their actions,” Salamanca said.

The community board has appealed to the Liquor Authority to revoke the club’s license. The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5.

Club Eleven did not immediately respond to phone or email messages.

Meanwhile, Club Heat, another strip joint with a violent past, has applied to renew its license, which expires at the end of the month.

The board sent a letter to the Liquor Authority this week urging it to deny that request on the grounds that the owner left part of the application blank and did not provide the board the required 30-day notice.

It added that a new sign with a different name has been posted at the club's former location, suggesting it may have moved.

The letter recounted Club Heat’s grim history.

Just weeks after it opened in late 2011, a mother of three was fatally shot outside the club. The following month, three more people were shot and another stabbed there.

Last year, the club racked up more than 20 summonses, including for a disorderly premises, unlicensed security guards and public urination, according to police records.

“They’re just spilling this issue out onto the streets and saying to the police, ‘It’s your problem,’” Salamanca said.

Because officers must be stationed outside these clubs many nights, they cannot patrol the neighborhood or respond to as many quality-of-life complaints, he added.

Manuel Vidal, a lawyer for Club Heat’s owner, asked that questions about the club be submitted in an email. He did not immediately respond to the email.