Councilman William McKoy has demanded the Bonfire Mofongo House and Lounge take steps to rectify persistent traffic and quality of life problems in its proximity in order to obtain an entertainment license renewal.
McKoy said there are patrons double parking on the street, blocking the entrance to East 38th Street, and causing a “general raucous” outside during closing hours.
“The noise has gone away,” said McKoy on Wednesday evening noting previous success working with the establishment to address quality of life problems in the neighborhood. He said the establishment made changes to its operation and building to avoid waking up neighborhood residents early in the morning with loud music.
“What remains a problem are the patrons of the Bonfire exiting early in the morning,” said McKoy.
James Young, a Teaneck-based attorney, who represents the establishment, said the business instituted a valet parking system to relive traffic problems. He said cars are not exiting on East 38th Street, but on East 39th Street.
Young also said there is always traffic problems in the area which is a delta of multiple highways.
“Those are not our patrons,” said Young of individuals double parking around the establishment. “If cars are double parked on the streets those cars should be ticketed and towed.” He also said patrons do not leave with bags or beverages to assert the establishment’s customers are not throwing garbage on the sidewalks of neighborhood residents.
McKoy said police resources are stretched thin during the early morning hours making it difficult for the police to ticket the double parking cars. A security team patrols the vicinity of the establishment, said Young, adding it could discourage individuals double parking on the street in the future.
Young appeared unwilling to recognize the problems in the neighborhood garnering a harsh response from McKoy. “What you’re telling me don’t make sense. It doesn’t go with reality,” said McKoy.
McKoy, who represents the 3rd Ward, where the establishment is located, played a video of noise coming out of the Bonfire at 2 a.m. on his phone from last month. He said the video was sent to him by a resident who lives close to the establishment.
One resident texted on May 14th, 2016 and said the nightclub’s patrons were blocking East 38th Street. Another said the crowd from the establishment spilled onto the streets and a fight broke out in front of his driveway, said McKoy.
“I don’t know if that’s someone from the Bonfire,” said the lawyer about fights outside.
“You’re stretching me with these plays on words,” responded the 3rd Ward councilman.
Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, who owned a restaurant similar to the Bonfire, suggested hiring an off-duty police officer on busy nights when big name performers are scheduled to do shows at the establishment.
“You need somebody to handle the outside during Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays,” added Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman.
Police director Jerry Speziale said uniform police officers are prohibited from working inside a liquor establishment. He suggested hiring a marked patrol car with two officers to patrol the vicinity of the establishment during the night.
Jackson said the establishment may not need two police officers. He suggested one officer in a marked police vehicle.
Young said the business will consider hiring an off-duty police officers for busy nights.
McKoy suggested the council add additional security at the establishment as a condition for approval of the license.
Eastside section residents have been complaining about the business disturbing their quality of life for more than a year. The business has been working with McKoy and other residents to correct some of those issues.
McKoy has acknowledged the establishment has been successful in addressing many of the problems by working with the council and the community. For example, the city council approved a residential permit parking system for East 38th and East 39th Streets which ensured patrons did not take up neighborhood parking spaces.
The council will vote on whether to grant the business an entertainment license at its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 14th, 2016.