Volume 75, Number 39 | February 15 -21 2006

Villager Bob Arihood

Allison Arenson of the Police Department’s Legal Department pastes up fliers announcing that the former Ruby Lounge has been closed and cannot sell alcohol.

Police bust after-hours bar that also served minors

By Lincoln Anderson

Sending a message that bars and nightclubs serving alcohol to underage patrons and operating after hours won’t be tolerated, the Ninth Police Precinct closed down East Village Lounge, formerly Ruby Lounge, last Friday night.

According to Deputy Inspector Dennis De Quatro, Ninth Precinct commanding officer, police observed the problems at the bar, at 186 E. Second St. between Avenues A and B, during operations addressing nightlife conditions on lower Avenue B. A clear giveaway that the bar, located on a side street, was operating past legal hours, he said, was the fact that taxis were pulling up outside to pick up and drop off people at 5 a.m.

In what is known as a nuisance-abatement action, the police served a court order and issued a summons to appear in court to the bar’s owner around 10:30 p.m., then shuttered the place. The bar will remain closed until at least Thurs. Feb. 16, the date of the court hearing. The judge will set conditions under which it can reopen, which De Quatro said, in this case, might be an early closing time. If the bar doesn’t abide by the new stipulations, it can be ordered permanently closed. A fine can also be assessed.

Lieutenant Brian Connolly of the Ninth Precinct talks with the bar’s owner, Jason Castorounis, during the nuisance-abatement action.
De Quatro said that during an investigation of more than three months, uniformed and undercover officers — police cadets or auxiliary officers under age 21 — visited the bar numerous times. Although only three violations are needed for a judge to issue a court order to close a premises — generally for up to three business days — there were many instances of undercovers being served alcohol, while the place was frequently open and serving alcohol after the mandated 4 a.m. cutoff time, according to the deputy inspector.

He said the fact that the bar didn’t have a doorman, but relied on bartenders to check ID’s, was asking for trouble, since bartenders are often too busy to properly card customers.

Before the action, Lieutenant Edward Winski, who is in charge of the precinct’s special operations, added that underage patrons with fake government-issued ID could be arrested for a felony — criminal possession of a forged document. The police carried a handheld detector to check for fake ID’s.

De Quatro, Winksi and Lieutenant Brian Connolly, who heads the precinct’s cabaret squad, were joined in the action by Allison Arenson and Allen Schwartz of the Police Department’s Legal Department, who served the papers.

After being shut for a week for remodeling, the bar had just reopened. After the police entered from a rear doorway and announced the closure, the few patrons who were in the bar hastily left. The two bartenders, who didn’t give their names to a reporter, silently set to work quickly closing jugs of olives and candied cherries and emptying tubs of ice.

“I have no idea what’s happening,” one of them said. “I’m just cleaning up and we’re closing.” She said the bar was “under new management.”

Police said the bar’s former manager, Adonis, had been “the face of the place.” Connolly said when police had tried to inspect the place as it was operating after hours, the bar had sometimes shut the door in their face

“They had a Mickey Mouse manager,” he said. It’s a violation of the state Alcohol Beverage Control Law to bar police from access to a licensed premises to take action or for an inspection.

The employees were new too. The bar’s owner, Jason Castorounis, said he had told the bartenders to check customers’ ages.

“I mentioned to check all ID’s,” he said. “That was the first thing that I said.” Castorounis told The Villager he had just found out about the after-hours operation and accused his manager of lying to him.

He said he had changed the color of the bar’s walls from ruby red.

“Color does affect people, you know,” he said.

But it apparently didn’t change the fact that the bar was letting in people who were underage. De Quatro said they wanted to give the bar one last chance, so they sent an underage undercover in right before the nuisance-abatement action, but the bar failed the test again.

Due to an influx of new bars and clubs and the late-night car and taxi traffic they bring, residents on lower Avenue B and its neighboring side streets have been experiencing a quality of life nightmare. On Monday, Susan Stetzer, district manager of Community Board 3, said she hadn’t known police were planning the nuisance-abatement action.

“All the residents complained when they opened,” she said of the former Ruby Lounge. “Then they tried to build an outdoor deck and residents stopped that.

“Oh, that’s good,” she said of the police action.

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