Restaurant suspected of moonlighting as a lounge

The Van Nest Cafe and Restaurant is suspected of operating as a seedy lounge that charges $10 a pop to customers on weekends.
Photo by David Cruz

A new Van Nest restaurant is leaving a bitter taste in at least one community leader’s mouth.

They claim the Van Nest Café and Restaurant at 600 Van Nest Avenue moonlights as a lounge on the weekends.

The tidy Spanish-food eatery opened late last year, replacing a failing hair salon in a corner known for drug dealing and violent shootouts.

The State Liquor Authority granted the restaurant a beer and wine license in March, weeks after Community Board 11 approved it.

But red flags were already raised well before that after neighbors spotted a pool table inside, which has since been removed.

CB11 gave the restaurant its blessing on promises it would close at 2 a.m., two hours before mandatory state closing time.

A sign in front states closing hours are 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and midnight Sunday through Thursday.

Since then, loud music has been heard from inside in the early morning hours, mostly on weekends, said neighbor Bernadette Ferrara, vice president of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance and member of Community Board 11.

“That’s not what we wanted,” said the longtime resident. “It was supposed to be a restaurant.”

She said she also found a promotional poster on the front of the store inviting customers to stop by on weekends for “live music,” with a $10 entry fee.

“When you have a cover charge,” declared Ferrara, “it’s a lounge.”

Ferrara said she’s had several encounters with the restaurant owner, Pablo Tejada of New Jersey, questioning whether he was running a lounge.

“He said, ‘But nobody’s complaining,’” recalled Ferrara. “I said ‘I’m complaning to you that this is not acceptable, the music is blasting. Close the damn door.’”

Members of CB11 even arranged a meeting with Tejada, but his sister Danuvia, who owns the building, showed up instead.

She relayed the message to her brother, urging him to tone down the music. He did not return calls, but Danuvia Tejada told The Bronx Times Reporter the allegations are false “considering there’s no space for a club there.”

She said she would rather rent the space to another tenant, since the restaurant “won’t make money.”

A frustrated Ferrara has now logged her complaints with the city’s 311 hotline, for loud music and then for a Nov. 10 incident where shots were fired near the restaurant. She’s also taken her complaints directly to 49th Precinct Capt. Lorenzo (Andy) Johnson.

The State Liquor Authority has no recorded violations against the cafe, though Ferrara suspects the eatery won’t have its license renewed in the future.

“They went against all of the agreements of the community, and it will be taken into consideration,” said Ferrara.

Her campaign to set the eatery straight is all part of a larger crusade to root out negative elements in the low-key neighborhood of two-story homes which has seen sporadic crime.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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