Time to shut off The Falls
Last Friday night, protesters gathered outside The Falls bar on Lafayette St. calling for its closure in the wake of the murder of Imette St. Guillen, the 24-year-old John Jay College student who was brutally raped and murdered after the bar tossed her out after closing time on Feb. 25. The prime suspect this week linked to the crime by DNA evidence is the bars bouncer Darryl Littlejohn, a career criminal who has spent years in jail on numerous charges.
Theres no question this bar should be shut for good. The places liquor license comes up for renewal at the end of July but the State Liquor Authority must not wait that long to act. Under the states Alcohol Beverage Control Law, convicted felons cannot be employed by a premises with a liquor license unless the employee receives a waiver, which can come in the form of a pardon from the governor, a certificate of good conduct from the State Division of Parole, a certificate of relief from the sentencing judge or court or approval from the S.L.A. Littlejohn had none of these. As a result, The Falls faces revocation of its license, as well as a $10,000 penalty by the S.L.A. A two-year ban can also be enforced against the building in which the bar is located from receiving a liquor license.
Without doubt, The Falls should have its license revoked and should be fined the maximum amount possible. Daniel Dorrian, an owner who was tending bar the night of Feb. 25, did not fully cooperate with police the first week after St. Guillens murder, giving the suspect time to cover his tracks. Only later did Dorrian tell police hed heard an argument from the hall outside the bars side entrance and then a muffled scream after he had told the bouncer to escort St. Guillen out of the bar.
There has been an explosion of bars in Downtown Manhattan. Yet, there hasnt been a corresponding increase in security safeguards to protect bar patrons, who can find themselves with their guard down and their better judgment clouded. Women are particularly at risk.
Councilmember Alan Gerson is proposing legislation for stringent New York Police Department background checks of bouncers. The fact that bouncers currently self-certify whether they are felons is a joke. Gersons other idea to renew the call to allow off-duty police officers to patrol sidewalks in front of bars and nightclubs, which would pay the Police Department for the service may be another solution. The city shouldnt summarily discount paid detail for bars. Both of Gersons proposals could well be lifesavers.
But the immediate action that must be taken is clear: Close The Falls as soon as possible and fine them to max. A young womans life was horribly snuffed out because of this places unpardonable irresponsibility, not to mention the owners hindrance of the criminal investigation. Its time to shut off The Falls.