Warring against problem bars

Raphael Salamanca Jr., the district manager for Community Board 2 in Hunts Point/Longwood, strapped on a bullet-proof vest as he geared up for a pre-dawn raid.

He’s not a cop, but was asked by the 41st Precinct’s Deputy Inspector Philip Rivera to join in on a March 16 operation, the first of two raids, to shut down several local lawless nightclubs.

“I wanted to see with my own eyes what the issues were,” said Salamanca, normally seen at State Liquor Authority hearings whenever a problem club was up for renewal.

The raid was part of the Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots operation, where city departments of health, environmental protection, buildings and law busted six nightspots around the predominantly poor neighborhoods.

A more condensed raid was conducted March 22, this time with officers from the SLA.

In all, cops found drug dealing unlicensed bouncers, illegal dance floors, disorderly crowds and large amounts of pot.

Seven criminal summonses and eleven arrests were made by the Four-One, which shut down four of the clubs down for not having proper New York State Worker’s Compensation Board coverage.

WCB fines against the half-dozen clubs totaled over $600,000.

Two of them included the SNJ El Nuevo Bar and Hemosilla Restaurant, which was fined $280,000.

Others ordered to close was Club 11, a seedy isolated night club with a history of bloody violence and prostitution. Last summer, five people were stabbed outside the Hunts Point club at at 1152 Randall Ave.

Another dangerous club closed by the WCB was the Ebony Lounge at 921 E. 163rd Street, where public brawls are commonplace.

“We went went in, there was a guy rolling his blunts on the table,” said Salamanca Jr., remembering the whiff of marijuana in the air. The drugs gave cops reason to search all clubgoers, later arresting three people for having “bags” of pot.

“That’s a chronic location for us, we go there on a regular basis,” said 41st Precinct Lieutenant Dawit Fikru, briefing neighbors at the latest Community Board 2 meeting March 27.

It was also there that CB2 narrowly agreed to draft a letter approving an SLA renewal application for La India, despite being one of the bars targeted in the March 16 sting. The owner of the bar, Jorge Sanchez, and his wife were arrested for not having disability coverage. Two others were arrested for serving alochol to drunk customers.

Sanchez agreed to the board’s request in signing 10 binding stipulations, including lowering the music and issuing a last call one hour before closing.

With a successful M.A.R.C.H. raid, Salamanca Jr. looks to take part in future raids. “I think every district manager should go,” he said.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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