City officials granted dance hall and entertainment licenses to a Market Street nightclub that has been the subject of numerous resident complaints due to loud music and residential disturbances.
The Bonfire Restaurant received approval for a dance hall license and an entertainment license on Tuesday evening. These two licenses will allow the troubled nightclub to operate “in full blast,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, who voted against granting the establishment the two licenses.
The restaurant which has had a change of ownership that resulted in it marketing itself under Bonfire Mofongo House and Lounge has serious violations that include operating without an entertainment license, playing loud music, indoor hookah smoking, overcrowding, and operating without most recent liquor license renewal application, according to city records.
There are also two pending Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) violations over a fight that took place at the location on January 26th, 2015. And another for operating the establishment after legal hours, according to the ABC board.
The establishment also failed to list all its employees on a worksheet as is required by law which resulted in an ABC violation on February 28th, 2015. The January and February violations are pending before the ABC board.
Questions were raised whether the establishment, operating as a night club, is even doing so legally, for it has a continued certificate of occupancy (CCO) for a restaurant, but not a nightclub.
It obtained the CCO after city police crackdown on the location upon receiving a large number of complaints from East 39th Street and nearby residents. Prior to the crackdown the establishment operated without a certificate of occupancy.
McKoy wants the establishment to apply for a certificate of occupancy (CO) which requires the nightclub undergo a much more rigorous application process. “You cannot grant permit for an activity the certificate of occupancy does not permit,” said McKoy. He suggested the establishment undergo the process for nightclub as opposed to a restaurant before procuring the dance and entertainment licenses.
Business administrator Nellie Pou said the building is still pending a fire suppression plan. That plan calls for blinking lights that would direct customers to exits in the event of a fire. Edgard Bueno, accountant for the lounge, said a fire inspector who visited the site, told him connecting the fire suppression system to the lights was optional.
“I see a liability here on the part of the city,” said McKoy. The city will likely be named in a lawsuit in the event there is a tragedy at the location if it approves the two licenses, added Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large.
Besides the violations, city residents from East 38th and East 39th Streets have complained about lack of parking, as a direct result of the large number of customers the lounge has been attracting.
375-400 parking spaces are available customers, said Richard Turano, the lounge’s attorney. Much of the parking is leased from nearby businesses. A small number of those spaces are available to residents, according to the lounge’s management.
The council has before it a measure to pilot Morris’ residential parking scheme that will bar non-residents from taking up parking space along East 38th and East 39th Streets.
A small group of area residents who have complained about noise and parking were present during Tuesday’s special meeting, but none of them spoke against granting the licenses to the establishment.
Morris, McKoy, and James Staton, 1st Ward councilman, voted against granting the licenses in a 6-3 vote.