It looks like last call at Pompeii, the troubled east Bronx bar and lounge.
Elected officials and residents around the Waterbury-LaSalle watering-hole are breathing a sigh of relief after its owner announced he’s closing it.
Jose Torres told Community Board 10’s economic development committee meeting on Wednesday, May 1 that he was withdrawing his application for a liquor license renewal.
Torres said in an interview that he is selling his business to an experienced local restaurateur who plans to transform the business into a family-style restaurant offering Puerto Rican cuisine.
“As of the end of May, I will surrender my license,” said Torres, who said his lease is being purchased from him.
“I know I made a few mistakes, I tried to rectify them, and it was just too little, too late,” said Torres. “But I learned from the experience. I understand their position. I know the community. They are just looking out for their community and I understand it.”
He added of his time running Pompeii: “Thank God it is coming to an end for me. It was a long and hard struggle.”
Many were shocked, but pleased at the news.
A representative from Senator Jeff Klein’s office at the meeting was prepared to oppose Torres’ re-application for a liquor license. Both Klein and Councilman Jimmy Vacca issued a rare joint statement approving the development.
“We are pleased that Pompeii Lounge will be shutting its doors in the wake of long-standing concerns and complaints from its neighbors and surrounding community,” stated Klein and Vacca.
“For too long, Pompeii Lounge has been the site of safety and quality-of-life concerns despite our consistent work with the community to petition its liquor license renewal, address issues faced by our constituents and lobby for new tenants, they stated.
Both called the closing “a victory for the safety and well-being of its neighbors and for the Waterbury-LaSalle community at large.”
Quality-of-life and safety concerns resulted in about $30,000 in sustained State Liquor Authority fines from eight charges from 2010 and three more from 2011, including a “disorderly premise” charge from a fight that alledgedly spilled out on to E. Tremont Avenue.
Those came on top of violations from city agencies including the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Buildings after numerous complaints.
Quality-of-life concerns came a head in 2010 after Marc Outram, believed to be a Pompeii patron, and an off-duty police officer shot at each other on the street near Pompeii after it had closed for the night.
Shortly after the shooting, Community Board 10 intervened, with a torrent of resident complaints, including patrons having frequent fights on nearby streets, having sex in cars parked on side streets, and urinating and dumping trash in front of people’s homes.
The Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association led the fight to get Pompeii’s liquor license suspended or revoked, but its leaders were disappointed when the SLA failed to do so in 2012.
WLCA board member Andrew Chirico said he was glad that the fight to close Pompeii was over, but he raised questions about the sale of the business, and said that the community will remain vigilant of the new owners.
WLCA board member Annie Boller added that “The neighborhood is overjoyed at the news of Pompeii closing.”
“We thank Senator Klein, Councilman Vacca, Community Board 10 and Waterbury-LaSalle Association for fighting with and for us. We came a long way and put up with a lot, but soon we will be able to sleep through the night.”
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393