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'Someone Will Be Killed,' Neighbors of Embattled UES Nightclub Say

By Shaye Weaver | March 9, 2017 3:39pm | Updated on March 10, 2017 5:45pm
 A representative of La Nuit, formerly Lava NYC, was bombarded by angry residents at Tuesday's Community Board 8 meeting.
A representative of La Nuit, formerly Lava NYC, was bombarded by angry residents at Tuesday's Community Board 8 meeting.
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DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver

UPPER EAST SIDE — Neighbors shot down a liquor license application for a First Avenue nightclub notorious for its unruly patrons and street fights — including one recent incident that resulted in a stabbing — calling the venue a plague on the community that should be shut down altogether.

La Nuit, the former Lava NYC nightclub at 1134 First Ave. at East 62nd Street, is applying for a full liquor license renewal since its current one is expiring at the end of this month, but residents say it doesn't deserve one based on the havoc it's brought to their street for years.

This is the club's second attempt at getting the license renewed under different names. In December 2016, Community Board 8 first rejected its proposal after dozens of residents showed up at a meeting to complain about street fights, hookah and marijuana smoke and shouting outside the club.

The club was called Lava NYC at the time, and called La Nuit before that. Now the club has returned with the name La Nuit again. But no matter what the club is called, the chaos has always been the same, residents said.

An attorney representing the club, Charles Wertman, pleaded its case again on Tuesday, appearing before the board to apply for its license renewal due to a change in ownership, but he was quickly shut down by angry residents. 

"Your client has no regard for people who are his neighbors, so how can you expect us to have regard for this operation that has violated not only the law but the spirit of the neighborhood?" said CB8 member Barry Schneider. "[La Nuit] should be dissolved and never seen in this community ever again. It's a plague on the community and we must not allow it to continue."

Many residents said they witnessed police cars outside the establishment several times over the past couple of months.

Most recently, a 26-year-old man tried to break up a fight outside of the nightclub at 3:25 a.m. on Feb. 25, when he was stabbed in the torso, police said. There were no arrests.

"I fear for my life when I come home late between 2 and 4:30 a.m.," said 1132 First Ave. resident Mark Klein. "Last Saturday night [the partiers] were threatening me because I was taking pictures on the street. I don’t go out late...and noise keeps me up."

Josh, a resident who declined to share his last name for fear of retribution, said he would do anything to get the establishment out of the neighborhood.

"Someone will be killed...and you will be morally responsible for it," he said. "There are cops here all the time, every weekend. My daughter is afraid to come home at night. I will come after you with a vengeance and I will come after you with everything I have."

Within the last year there have been 154 complaints to 311 tied to the nightclub, according to Abraham Salcedo, the chairman of CB8's Street Life committee. At least 15 of them were filed since its first application was denied by the community board in December and were for loud talking/music.

It's unclear when exactly ownership of the club changed, but the club's last bid for a license at the end of last year listed the owner as El Nasr USA Group. The current application names the owner as S and M Lounge Corp.

During the CB8 meeting on Tuesday, Wertman promised residents that the club would only open on weekends, but on its liquor license application, the club lists its hours of operation as running seven days a week.

Wertman also asserted that the club had taken steps to resolve issues, such as hiring new security guards, installing soundproofing, posting "no smoking" signs, establishing a no-alcohol-outdoors policy, training its staff to know when to cut customers off from drinking alcohol, and raising its price of drinks to attract "a different level" of clientele.

But neighbors said any attempt by new management to clean up its act has not changed its impact on the area, and things have actually gotten worse.

The CB8 Street Life committee voted Tuesday to again deny support for La Nuit's application. 

The full community board will vote on the application at its next meeting on March 15. Its vote, however, is only advisory and the State Liquor Authority will get the final say on whether to approve or reject the application.

"I see no other alternative," CB8 member Matt Bondy said. "It's outrageous to me that people who live on the block or across the street are so terribly bothered by it."