Volume 76, Number 25 | November 8 - 14, 2006

After the fall of The Falls, life returns to 224 Lafayette St.

By Sandra Larriva

The Falls, the dark Soho nightspot where John Jay College graduate student Imette St. Guillen was last seen alive in the early morning of Feb. 25, 2006, closed on July 9 after having given up its liquor license two days earlier.

Darryl Littlejohn, a bouncer at The Falls the night St. Guillen was murdered, was charged with the murder in June. Littlejohn had been employed without a proper background check and was not registered to be a bouncer, a violation of state law.

Almost four months later, a brighter place has taken over the ill-famed locale. Midnight Cafe II, which opened on Wednesday, planned to donate all the proceeds from its opening night to a scholarship fund in the name of the murder victim.

A month and a half ago, Hardial and Amarjit Singh, two brothers from Punjab, India, came across the “For Rent” sign outside of the shuttered bar and decided to take over the spot. They have owned the Midnight Cafe, an eatery two doors down, for five years and saw this as the perfect opportunity to expand their business. The older Midnight Cafe, now known as Dosa Chutney Soho, will serve American food with an Indian twist while the new spot will make loyal customers happy by keeping the older, diner-style menu.

Amarjit first became aware of the scandal surrounding The Falls when, upon returning from a trip to India, he encountered protestors outside the bar asking authorities to shut the place down. Realizing that the events might affect the brothers’ business, a neighbor offered to put them in contact with the St. Guillen family in case they needed any help. It was then that Hardial had the idea of doing something in memory of Imette St. Guillen.

The Imette St. Guillen Scholarship Fund is co-sponsored by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, the Association for a Better New York and the New York Daily News. Scholarship recipients receive financial assistance in their criminal justice-related studies.

While opening night was not as busy as expected and left no profit, the Singh brothers will complete their contribution with out-of-pocket money. The exact amount remains undisclosed. By donating to the scholarship fund, the brothers feel that they are also contributing to the community.

“We are doing wonderful. Our old customers have a feeling for us and we have a feeling for them,” said Hardial, who does a little bit of everything, from dishwashing, to working the register and cooking. The Singh brothers hope that their business will bring more life to a neighborhood which, according to Hardial, “is very good but wants to be better.”

Midnight Cafe II is located at 224 Lafayette St., between Spring and Broome Sts., and is open from 7 a.m. to midnight.

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