Volume 76, Number 4 | June 14 - 20 2006

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Police posted a court-approved closing order at The Falls and padlocked the bar last Friday.

Underage sales, after-hours violation close Falls

By Jefferson Siegel

Last Friday afternoon police descended on The Falls, the now-notorious Lafayette St. bar where John Jay student Imette St. Guillen was last seen alive in February before she was murdered.

The police drilled out a lock, entered the space to make sure it was empty, posted three bright red “Closed” signs and pulled down the gates. Several copies of a court order were taped to the bottom of the gate.

Darryl Littlejohn, who was working the door at the bar the night St. Guillen was there, has been charged with her murder. The Falls employed him without performing a background check. He was not registered to be a bouncer, which is a violation of state law.

The closing may have been accelerated by the murder case but the bar was ultimately shuttered under a Police Department nuisance abatement action. The court order cited the bar for three instances of selling alcohol to a minor and one charge of selling alcohol after hours since the start of the year.

Littlejohn’s employment at the bar and subsequent arrest figured prominently in the written decision: “The operators of ‘The Falls’ brazenly continue to allow such activity which endangers their patrons and the surrounding community,” the order said. “It is clear that a closing order is the only effective remedy to abate this serious public nuisance.”

The order also noted that, “The community has severely suffered and continues to suffer, as a result of the illegal activities taking place” at the bar.

Late Friday night, Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, writer Jeff Ragsdale and Assembly candidate Esther Yang stood quietly near the lowered gate, noting that it took a murder to precipitate the closing. The three have organized and participated in numerous protests against the bar following St. Guillen’s murder.

“It’s about time,” Sweeney said. “It’s unfortunate it took a woman’s death for this place to close down.

“Thankfully, this hellhole is shut down,” Ragsdale agreed. “Mardi Gras in New York is finished,” he said. “We want to send a clear message that this is a starting point. We need to do the due diligence and weed this stuff [scofflaw bars] out so we can be safe.”

Yang recently met with St. Guillen’s family.

“They should have closed it down when Imette died,” she said. “It just prolonged the pain they were going through.” Yang emphasized she was “not against bar owners. I’m pro-nightlife, but this is the type of bar owner that brings a bad name to good bar owners.”

Perhaps the most damning statement against the bar and its owners was made in a two-page affidavit by Detective Michael Dorto.

“Interviews with the bar’s management and their employees regarding the aforementioned homicide were rife with inconsistencies and faulty information,” Dorto said. “Furthermore, the owner of the subject premises has been unwilling to assist with the investigation.”

Police charge that the bar’s owners didn’t disclose details of Littlejohn’s interaction with St. Guillen until a week after her body was found, delaying the investigation.

The Dorrian family was expected to be in court on Wednesday to appeal the closing order. Under a nuisance abatement action, a judge can allow a bar to reopen if the owners agree to strictly adhere to rules set under an agreement with police and the court.

The S.L.A. a few weeks ago began a process that could lead to the permanent closing of The Falls.

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