Residents on the border of Kensington and Borough Park fear the return of a raucous nightclub attracting clientele prone to incidents of street violence and lewd conduct, including stabbings, tire slashings, defecation on nearby residential stoops and fornication in the backyard bushes of local houses of worship.
“It was a living hell,” said Pearl Narine, whose family has owned and lived in the building next door (with a shared “common wall” between the properties) for 23 years. “Ear-blasting music came through the wall at all hours. There were these big crowds every night, and pools of blood and excrement the following morning.”
Coronitas Bar, at 756 McDonald Avenue, opened in September 2012 despite being located near several schools and synagogues, usually a violation of the “200 foot rule.” Despite only having a “tavern” license, the venue operated as a nightclub, welcoming patrons seven nights a week from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., often with a curtain outside obscuring its activities and the identities of those who entered. The club quickly ran into trouble with the law and various state agencies, with frequent calls to the police regarding the conduct of patrons and staff, and some 19 alleged violations of the Alcohol Beverage Control Laws (ABCL) for failing to comply with local health and safety codes.
The State Liquor Authority (SLA) revoked its liquor license this January after the company failed to appear at four disciplinary proceedings regarding the alleged violations, and also because of allegations that the bar provided false material on its original license application (claiming to be a free-standing building, among other things).
However, rather than close for good, local residents claim the owners simply re-branded under the name “Ditmas Beer Palace” and applied for a new license, purporting to be unrelated to the owners of the former establishment. The community lined up in opposition: over five hundred residents signed a petition urging that the license be denied, and the SLA received letters from numerous representatives, including the Borough President and Community Board 12, requesting that the application be denied. Members of nearby Synagogue Ateras Mechoel even appeared at SLA hearings in person to protest.
“It was laughable,” said Moshe Edel, a plumber in Borough Park who opposed the application. “The had an individual appear at the hearings who claimed he had no relation to the former business, but obviously it was the same people behind it.”
Community members pointed to the fact that the managers of the original facility were still seen on the site, supervising renovations. The “Coronitas Bar” signage remained unchanged, and advertisements on the building advised of the establishment’s imminent return.
In June, a decision by the SLA denied the new liquor license request, but allowed the company to reapply if they consulted with the local community board and gained its approval. A third application has since been submitted to the Liquor Authority and remains pending–but local residents say the Community Board was never consulted as instructed.
“They haven’t met with or contacted the community board at all,” said Hillel Mendelovitz, a member of Ateras Mechoel, a local Synagogue that sits on the side street around the corner from the bar’s location. “They may have sent a letter to the community board containing a copy of their latest application, but they never actually reached out.”
Mendelovitz said the neighborhood “came a long way” since 8-9 years ago, when McDonald Avenue was still a dangerous, crime-ridden border between two neighborhoods that pedestrians were afraid to travel upon at night, and that he feared a return to the “bad old days.”
Narine says the individuals behind “Coronitas Bar” and “Ditmas Beer Palace” manage close to a dozen similar cabaret-like establishments, featuring women paid to attend (to entice male patrons), loud music, and wild antics. She believed other entities affiliated with the same individuals may include El Bukanitas and El Bukanas, the latter of which was prohibited from opening at another McDonald Avenue location near Kings Highway after residents protested what they feared would be the front for an “adult establishment.” Both locations have the same landlord, Jack Zeitouny, who was able to glean roughly $7,000 per month from the Coronitas Bar when it remained open, sources say.
Neighbor Smicha Appel remembered an especially disturbing episode late one night when the bar was still in business.
“Someone left something in the Synagogue, and had gone back to get it,” Appel said. “He called me from there, and said there was a problem, I had to come by. I came to find a man and a woman, in the bushes…this is a place we bring our kids.”
Appel added that the bar owners were not beyond taunts and trickery to get their way.
“They had someone approach us, offering to pay rent for the top floor of our synagogue,” Appel said. The bar then turned around and used the potential lease negotiation as proof that use of the Synagogue’s space was not exclusively religious, providing an exception to the “200 foot rule” that allowed them to open their doors.
“‘We’ll show you how the law works,'” Appel recalls members of the business telling him.
Narine recalled similar exchanges. A “sit down” with one of the bar’s managers about the pulsating noise through her wall was met with advice to “wear ear plugs,” followed by a threat.
“We will see you move out of the neighborhood,” a man named Victor told her.
“I can’t sell even I wanted to,” Narine told Brooklyn Brief. “Even with rising property values, I would have to disclose this ongoing situation to any prospective homeowner.”
A window shop in earlier years, the latest SLA application for 756 McDonald Avenue remains pending and could be decided in the next few weeks. In the meantime, Ms. Narine, members of the nearby Synagogue, and other neighbors will be planning a rally at the location and the landlord’s home.
A voice message was left with Coronitas Bar and Ditmas Beer Palace at telephone numbers listed with the companies. Additionally, an attorney previously listed as counsel for Ditmas Beer Palace in SLA paperwork advised her office no longer represented the entities, but was asked to pass along word of the story. A telephone call to Jack Zeitouny, the owner of the property, was answered by a secretary who advised she would relay our information to Mr. Zeitouny and the managers of the businesses.
As of press time, neither the landlord nor the business owners have returned our request for comment.