Volume 18 • Issue 44 | March 17 - 23, 2006

Editorial

It’s time to shut off The Falls

Last Friday night, protesters gathered outside The Falls bar on Lafayette St. calling for its closure in the wake of the murder of Imette St. Guillen, the 24-year-old John Jay College student who was brutally raped and murdered after the bar tossed her out after closing time on Feb. 25. The prime suspect — this week linked by DNA evidence — is the bar’s bouncer Darryl Littlejohn, a career criminal who has spent years in jail on numerous charges.

There’s no question this bar should be shut for good. The place’s liquor license comes up for renewal at the end of July — but the State Liquor Authority must not wait that long to act. Under the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Law, convicted felons cannot be employed by a premises with a liquor license — unless the employee receives a waiver, which can come in the form of a pardon from the governor, a certificate of good conduct from the State Division of Parole, a certificate of relief from the sentencing judge or court or approval from the S.L.A. Littlejohn had none of these. As a result, The Falls faces revocation of its license, as well as $10,000 penalty by the S.L.A. A two-year ban can also be enforced against the building in which the bar is located from receiving a liquor license.

Without doubt, The Falls should have its license revoked and should be fined the maximum amount possible. Daniel Dorrian, an owner of the bar who was tending bar the night of Feb. 25, reportedly did not fully cooperate with police the first week after St. Guillen’s murder, giving the murderer time to cover his tracks. Only later did Dorrian tell police he’d heard an argument from the hall outside the bar’s side entrance and then a muffled scream after he had told the bouncer to escort St. Guillen out of the bar. Dorrian’s lack of cooperation is not only shocking, it probably is a crime too.

There has been an explosion of bars in Downtown Manhattan. Yet, there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in security safeguards to protect bar patrons, who can find themselves with their guard down and their better judgment clouded. Women are particularly at risk.

Lower Manhattan Councilmember Alan Gerson is proposing legislation for stringent New York Police Department background checks of bouncers. The fact that bouncers currently self-certify whether they are felons is a joke and could be one of the reasons why St. Guillen is dead. Gerson’s other idea — to renew the call to allow off-duty police officers to patrol sidewalks in front of bars and nightclubs, which would pay the Police Department for the service — may be another solution. The city shouldn’t summarily discount paid detail for bars. Again, it could be a lifesaver.

But the immediate action that must be taken is clear: Close the bar as soon as legally possible and fine them to the max. The investigation of a young woman’s rape and murder was hindered by this bar, whose shocking irresponsibility may have led to her killing too. Shut off The Falls.


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