Photo: Chi Chiz Gallery
There are new developments in the ongoing legal drama with Chi Chiz, the predominately Black gay bar on New York City's Christopher Street that was the scene of several raids and closures. The New York Police Department's nuisance abatement lawsuit that was postponed in August continues today. And in a separate action, the New York State Liquor Authority upheld charges against the bar. The Liquor Authority seeks to revoke the bar’s license, "which would effectively close the establishment", reports Duncan Osborne at Gay City News.
"The testimony of the Authority witnesses established an overarching and convincing portrait of persistent inadequate supervision of [Chi Chiz], particularly in connection with the front sidewalk area... which acted as an extension of [Chi Chiz] where customers waited for admittance and smoked," Nicholas DeCesare, the judge, wrote in an undated ruling obtained from Chi Chiz’ attorney. "The ambient nature of the area where [Chi Chiz] operated was rife with various forms of disorderly conduct, including drug trafficking."
In addition to tolerating a generally disorderly business, DeCesare found that the allegations of four drug sales inside Chi Chiz from July of 2009 to January of 2010 were credible. ... While DeCesare held four hearings and heard from 11 witnesses offered by the Authority or Chi Chiz, the two undercover police officers who made the drug buys never appeared. Instead, the detectives who ran those operations testified.
Ronelle MacKenzie and Everett Ray, the two principals in Chi Chiz, testified they maintained adequate security and threw out anyone who sold drugs in the bar, though both said they had no knowledge of any drug activity in Chi Chiz. ... DeCesare’s ruling will go the Authority’s three-member board, which oversees the entire state, for a final decision. The board could revoke Chi Chiz’ liquor license, which would effectively close the bar.
If the Authority board upholds DeCesare's ruling, Chi Chiz can sue in state court.
Chi Chiz also faces a nuisance abatement lawsuit brought by New York City that is seeking to close the bar. That case will proceed today before Judge Martin Schoenfeld in Manhattan Supreme Court. Chi Chiz has counter-sued, claiming the Bloomberg Administration and NYPD are motivated by racial and anti-gay hostility.
The NYPD cites four drug sales that police say happened at Chi Chiz between July of 2009 and January of 2010. But the bars owners' and many patrons believe the NYPD and Bloomberg Administration is targeting the bar because local residents resent the club and black/Latino gay youth in the West Village. In March 2010, Chi Chiz was raided and temporarily shut down by the NYPD. On the night of the raid, owners and witnesses identified an undercover NYPD officer who shouted anti-gay epithets outside the club.
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