Troubled club keeps dodging bullet

Downtown Express photo by Kaitlyn Meade Greenhouse, on the corner of Varick and Vandam Sts.

Downtown Express photo by Kaitlyn Meade
Greenhouse, on the corner of Varick and Vandam Sts.

BY KAITLYN MEADE  |  Raquel Finley was working as a promoter for Greenhouse, a bar and nightclub at 150 Varick St., and its basement event lounge W.i.P., on June 12, when a stranger struck the 21-year-old in the face with a bottle of Patrón tequila.

“Some guy said, ‘You stepped on my foot’ and bashed her in the face with a bottle,” her mother, Jawan Finely, recalled at the First Precinct police station a week later.

At the time of the incident, Jawan — an attorney with a firm in Flushing — was in Georgia with her husband. Their return to New York was delayed because he had gotten into a motorcycle accident.

“They took her downstairs, cleaned the blood off her — there was blood all over her dress,” Jawan said. “Security found her friend, they put [Raquel] in a cab and sent her home. They tried to cover it up. Someone was hit with a [bottle of] Magnum Patrón and you don’t call the hospital?” she asked.

When her daughter called to tell her what had happened, Jawan was devastated. She told her to go immediately to a hospital, and was outraged that the club had not called an ambulance for her daughter or called the police to make a report.

It turned out that Raquel had multiple fractures to her face and a split lip. After receiving initial emergency treatment at Jamaica Hospital, she later had to undergo plastic surgery to correct fractures to her eye socket, her mother said.

She said Raquel was so excited to do promotion work for the club, which frequently has high-profile stars like Jamie Foxx. Now, her mother says, she wishes her daughter had made a few phone calls to check out the club’s safety records beforehand.

W.i.P. (which stands for “Work in Progress”) has a record for disturbances as high-profile as the stars who patronize it. The nightspot’s most infamous incident was a bottle-throwing brawl between singer Chris Brown and the entourage of the rapper Drake, which injured several clubgoers, including N.B.A. player Tony Parker, who suffered a scratched cornea.

The fight prompted the State Liquor Authority to suspend the liquor license of the venues, at Varick and Vandam Sts., for several weeks, along with slapping  them with a hefty fine. The nightclubs were allowed to reopen and operate conditionally while the S.L.A. conducted its hearings.

Last month, just days after the attack on Raquel Finley, an appellate court overturned the liquor license ban for W.i.P., according to a report by the New York Post, ruling that charges of drug dealing and violence could not be backed up by sufficient evidence.

The June 18 ruling also stated that the club could not have anticipated the fights, and noted new security measures put in place by club owner Barry Mullineux. Those precautions included bag checks and switching from glasses and bottles to plastic cups.

The safety precautions, however, have not prevented violence in recent months. In March, police arrested a woman who hit another bar patron over the head with an ice-filled bucket during a verbal argument. The victim sustained lacerations to her head and face.

In another incident, a 27-year-old man was brutally beaten on the street outside of the club as he left at closing time last month, and woke up in the hospital with the side of his skull crushed.

In addition, the Downtown Express has reported five incidents of grand larceny at W.i.P. and Greenhouse in the last four months: on March 6, April 13, April 20, May 11 and June 15.

The New York Police Department has frequently had to reprimand the club, said George Liropoulos, First Precinct community affairs officer. “We’re trying to close them down, I guess. That’s the only one who’s been a big problem for us,” he said. “They’re the only club we’ve got down here.”

“It was a trouble spot. They shouldn’t be in business,” said Bob Gormley, Community Board 2 district manager, in a phone interview with Downtown Express.

The clubs have come before C.B. 2 multiple times. The last time they came before the board was in October 2011, addressing community concerns over Greenhouse. Representatives of the club agreed to a number of stipulations, including a database of banned customers and hiring extra security.

“We want them to adhere to the stipulations and be good neighbors,” said Gormley during a follow-up call. “It’s not helpful to have a club that the First Precinct has to visit with some regularity.”

Representatives of W.i.P. declined to comment on the record for this story.

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