Volume 75, Number 43 | March 15 -21 2006

Editorial

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 bar’s bouncer Darryl Littlejohn, a career criminal who has spent years in jail on numerous charges.

There’s no question this bar should be shut for good. The place’s 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 state’s 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. Guillen’s murder, giving the suspect time to cover his tracks. Only later did Dorrian tell police he’d heard an argument from the hall outside the bar’s 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 hasn’t 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. Gerson’s 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 shouldn’t summarily discount paid detail for bars. Both of Gerson’s 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 woman’s life was horribly snuffed out because of this place’s unpardonable irresponsibility, not to mention the owner’s hindrance of the criminal investigation. It’s time to shut off The Falls.

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