The City’s Licensing Commission might want to consider making its public hearings adults’ only affairs.
At its Thursday, May 2, meeting, the commission handed down a 10-week liquor license suspension to Latinos Falcons at 185 Broadway after police showed a video from the bar featuring an assortment of groping, grabbing, grinding and all-around Dirty Dancing among waitresses, staff, and patrons.
The Falcon was called before the commission for a public hearing after a patron was placed into protective custody for public intoxication after drinking at the bar.
Before video from the bar was screened, the attorney representing Latinos Falcons, asked that the commission members keep in mind that some of the displays of affection captured on screen were merely representative of the restaurant’s predominantly “Latino culture.” The attorney also noted that there has recently been training at the bar for staff to help prevent future incidents.
As the video, featuring a fair share of bumping and grinding, came to an end with a shot of a security guard at Latinos Falcons sniffing a waitresses hair, commission member Gladys Vega was having none of the attorney’s justification.
“This has nothing to do with Latino culture,” said Vega, visibly incensed and angered despite battling laryngitis. “You should be ashamed. That is so disrespectful to say what you do about my culture.”
While the video evidence was from only one night at Latinos Falcons, and City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher stated that the bar has not been formally cited before, City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda said the behavior shown was nothing new.
“I’ve been told about these allegations for a while now, and in 2014 and 2015 I witnessed them myself, this is nothing new,” said Avellaneda. “Unfortunately, this (behavior) is prevalent in a few bars in Chelsea and we’ve heard complaints from former waitresses, especially at this place.”
The councillor urged the Licensing Commission to send a message to Latinos Falcons and other establishments that exhibit similar behavior in the city with a heavy punishment.
“This was only one night, you can imagine what else happens,” said Avellaneda. He noted that patrons, waitresses, and owners were all engaging in unseemly behavior at Latinos Falcons.
City Council President Damali Vidot said she initially showed up at last week’s public hearing to support local business.
“But if this is the way you do business, I have a huge problem with the way you treat women and them being objectified in this video,” said Vidot. “This video is very disturbing.”
Kimberly Martinez, who said she is a Salem State University student who has worked at Latinos Falcons for six months, countered that she has never been encouraged to act in any sexual manner or to flirt with customers as a way to increase the bill. She said many of the problems at the bar are caused by certain clientele.
“We are trying to filter that as best we can,” she said. “I feel like we are moving forward and things are changing.”
But for the commission members, it wasn’t enough to sway them.
Commission member James Guido noted that on top of everything else, the waitresses were seen drinking with customers and called for harsh punishment.
“For me, this is so disturbing and troubling,” said Commission Chair Mark Rossi. “How anyone could allow that in their establishment, with the owner taking part, is so out of line … How can that environment be conducive to reporting sexual harassment?”
Rossi, who sometimes acts to tamp down harsher penalties proposed by other commission members, wasn’t averse to going all the way to the most extreme punishment for Latinos Falcons.
“I will shut you down right now, this is so repugnant,” he said.
Guido initially proposed a 30-day license suspension for the bar, but it failed to pass. The lengthier 10-week suspension passed unanimously, along with a rollback of the bar’s hours from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. to 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
•In other business, the commission continued a public hearing on a change in manager for Los Agaves at 950 Broadway. There are currently legal proceedings in probate court over the ownership of the restaurant.
Licensing Commissioners are asking that all the current owners work together to find a new manager acceptable to all sides in the fight as the legal case makes its way through the court system.
•The commission also adopted revised licensing rules and regulations. The revised regulations place stricter requirements on security staff at bars and restaurants, requiring that security wear clearly marked red shirts, have city-issued identification, and not carry anything that could be used as a weapon.