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Nightclub Turns UES Block Into 'Outlaw Land,' Neighbors Say

By Shaye Weaver | December 7, 2016 4:48pm
 Representatives of Lava NYC, formerly La Nuit, was bombarded by unhappy residents at Tuesday's Community Board 8 meeting.
Representatives of Lava NYC, formerly La Nuit, was bombarded by unhappy residents at Tuesday's Community Board 8 meeting.
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DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver

UPPER EAST SIDE — A local community board rejected a nightclub's bid for a new liquor license this week, citing hundreds of complaints from neighbors, including those who say they've seen patrons vomiting and brawling in front of the club.

Community Board 8's street life committee rejected Lava NYC's request for a liquor license on Tuesday, citing at least 135 complaints made to 311 against the nightclub alone, which is "10 times the amount I've seen from any establishment," according the committee's chair Abraham Salcedo.

The complaints regarded excessive noise, litter and double-parking, among other issues.

"You guys are the worst neighbors ever," said Jennifer Link, 49, who lives on the same block. "We are the Upper East Side and we get no respect from you. I pay a lot of money to live where I live. I will be damned if an establishment like this will demean my neighborhood."

The 1134 First Ave. nightclub and hookah bar, run by El Nasr USA Group, inherited a liquor license from La Nuit, the club that used to run out of the same space, but that license expires in March next year.

Neighbors have long had complaints about La Nuit, and they said issues have continued since Lava NYC took over in November. But owner Elsayed Zayan told CB8 members that he's addressed issues, including installing sound-proofing, hiring a new security company, new employees and meeting with officers at the 19th Precinct.

But residents had a different story.

"In the past five days, there have been four physical fights outside of the establishment," said resident Kris Evans, 29. "There were 13 people involved in one fight...almost like a gang fight. On another evening a fight went on for 14 or 15 minutes. When I call the establishment...they don’t take care of it."

One neighbor, who asked not to be named in fear of retribution, said she's seen women laying down on their backs in the middle of the avenue, people throwing up outside of their cars and then driving home, and people yelling obscenities, and just last week, she heard someone shouting threats outside like "I'm gonna stab you!"

Since Jan. 1 this year, there has been one report of an assault outside the club, according to the NYPD.

A 22-year-old woman who worked at the club said she was punched in the face and hit in the head with a hookah on Oct. 17. Police made an arrest on Dec. 6.

Others have complained about the loud music that reverberates through the building's walls and fights erupting on the street.

Sarah Woodside Gallagher, another neighbor, said on that on Saturday night a crowd of partiers refused to move so she could get into her apartment building. She had a worker from a pizza place next door escort her through.

"This is outlaw land," she said. 

Zayan said his new security company is much better prepared to deal with issues and that they would make sure no one is double-parking and they've even started closing the club a little earlier.

"We don't let anybody stay outside and we close at 3:30 a.m. and make sure it's clear by 4 a.m.," said Zayan. "I've changed out the old employees. I was not responsible for what happened before. I promise I will take care of this. It's why I have come here today."

Residents said Zayan's efforts haven't made much of a difference though.

"I'm very happy to hear that these individuals have been working to rectify these issues, but I have not seen rewards from the improvements being made," Evans said.

Salcedo said he's received 30 letters and numerous videos of the free-for-all behavior, and gotten them almost daily. Many people did not come to the meeting in fear of retribution because they live nearby, he added.

"I normally try to be the uber-reasonable person, and normally for an establishment that has had issues, I would recommended reduced hours, but I have never seen this level of complaints…I will make motion to disapprove," he said. "I'm not moved by the response I've gotten. I've heard a lot of 'We will do better,' and 'It wasn’t us.' Those aren’t tangible solutions in my mind."

Community Board 8's full board will vote on the license application on Wednesday, Dec. 14, at its meeting at the New York Blood Center on East 67th Street.