Outraged East Elmhurst citizens fired away complaints to police Tuesday night over a restaurant and dance club they say has been destroying their neighborhood for the past four years.
Residents blamed Gran Rancho Jubilee, a mission themed Dominican restaurant at 23 04 94th St., for bringing gun and knife fights, parking problems, car theft and public urination into their backyards.
“We’re still having people use our lawn as a toilet,” said Pam Byers, one of approximately 90 people who attended Tuesday’s 115th Precinct Community Council meeting. She said a bullet fired by a Gran Rancho patron shattered the window of her tenant’s apartment in early July and lodged itself in a wall.
Byers added that neighbors in the area claimed their tires have been slashed and their cars vandalized after closing time at Gran Rancho.
Deputy Inspector Douglas Rolston, the precinct commander, said his officers are working with other agencies on a comprehensive investigation of the restaurant, and stressed that dealing with the situation was a work in progress.
“I can’t just roll in like Eliot Ness, much as I’d like to,” Rolston said. He explained that the Vice Squad has charged Gran Rancho with nuisance abatement, which will require the establishment to agree to certain regulations in court, and face more serious charges if those regulations are violated.
Currently, Gran Rancho Jubilee has 27 active Environmental Control Board violations, totaling $33,760 in penalty fines, according to the New York City Department of Buildings.
Giovanna Reid, district manager of Community Board 3, said the board had filed over 25 complaints to separate departments, including the departments of Health, Sanitation, and Buildings, since the issue was brought to their attention at an Aug. 22 meeting.
One of the major problems neighbors have with Gran Rancho is the disco in the basement, which police confirmed operates without a cabaret license. Trouble starts down there, neighbors said, and continues above ground when drunk and rowdy patrons start roaming the neighborhood.
Last Friday, however, employees were carefully checking identification and patting people down before allowing them into the disco. Bathrooms were monitored and liquor licenses were displayed above the bars.
Also in attendance was Carlos Domingo Tavarez, the eatery’s owner, and Louis Zayas, an adviser. Zayas is a retired law enforcement officer. Tavarez and Zayas remained silent during the meeting, but spoke with Rolston afterward.
“Every effort is made to prevent patrons from causing any disturbance,” Zayas said. He added that Tavarez, whose restaurant supports Little League baseball, basketball and soccer teams, believes they can “bridge the gap between Gran Rancho and the community.”
The main question his client is working to answer now, Zayas said, is where the restaurant’s responsibility for its patrons ends and where an individual’s responsibility for his or her own actions begins.