Chi Chiz Throws in the Towel

A West Village bar that caters to a gay and transgender African-American clientele and was sued this year by the city and by the State Liquor Authority will close on January 3.

“Obviously, the economic impact of what’s been going on this year — we went over those numbers — it’s highly problematic,” said Thomas D. Shanahan, an attorney for Chi Chiz.

New York City brought a nuisance abatement lawsuit against Chi Chiz in March, charging that the bar allowed four drug sales on its premises from July of 2009 to January of 2010.

Owners say city, Liquor Authority, Christopher Street Patrol opposition ruined business

Chi Chiz’ owners and its lawyers said that police steered the drug dealers into the bar. The first three buys were from the same dealer, with those sales occurring over three months.

“We never had notice of that,” said Shanahan, referring to the first sale. “It was a set-up.”

The fourth sale was from two dealers who met an undercover police officer at a Starbucks near Seventh Avenue and Grove Street. Police said one of the dealers insisted that they walk two-and-a-half blocks to make the sale in Chi Chiz.

Beginning in September, the Authority held four hearings and heard from 11 witnesses offered by the Authority or Chi Chiz. The administrative law judge in that proceeding found for the agency, saying the bar allowed the drug sales and other “disorderly conduct.”

Were the three-member Authority board that issues final rulings on cases to later sustain that finding, it could cost the bar its liquor license, effectively closing the establishment.

Shanahan said that even if Chi Chiz were able to keep its license and settle with the city, it appeared that the police and West Village residents who have complained about the bar were not going to stop.

“This is the private sector,” Shanahan said. “These are small business people, but if you continue to be the target, you reach a point where you can’t continue… We can’t sustain this on a continuing basis, and we have no confidence that these officers or people like David Poster are going to go away.”

Poster, the president of the Christopher Street Patrol, was one of two West Village residents who testified for the Authority at the hearings there.

“l just think that it was problem bar,” Poster told Gay City News. “I’m not happy about it, but I think they are getting what they deserve.”

Three seniors officers in the Sixth Precinct, which patrols the West Village, testified about rowdy behavior on the sidewalk near Chi Chiz at the Authority hearings.

On December 16, Chi Chiz was scheduled for a final hearing in the city’s nuisance abatement lawsuit and tried to reach a settlement with the city.

“The terms that they wanted were too onerous,” Shanahan said.

The bar will close and surrender its liquor license on January 3.

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