PATERSON, NJ – The owner of the Mambo Lounge on Tuesday night agreed to stop holding “college night” parties as a part of a last-minute deal that helped the Dover Street night club get its licenses renewed.
Neighbors in the 5th Ward have blamed the Mambo Lounge for noise, fights and vandalism that they say has diminished the quality of their lives. But the lounge’s attorney, Michale Andalaft, said the club has a nightly security staff of 12 guards, including an armed off-duty law enforcement officer, who patrol the surrounding streets.
The club’s operation also has become an issue of dispute among the two 5th Ward City Council candidates as incumbent Julio Tavarez has backed the neighbors’ complaints about the Mambo Lounge, while challenger Luis Velez has said praised the club owner’s efforts to run a good business.
The city council on Tuesday voted to approve the club’s licenses allowing it to charge a cover fee and to provide dance music. To gain support from council members, the club’s owner, Jorge Mejia, said he would stop hosting college nights on Thursdays.
During those events, geared toward 18- to 21-year-olds, there had been no alcohol served at the club, Andalaft said. But critics argued that youths were drinking outside the club and using drugs. Andalaft said all patrons on teen nights had to pass Breathalyzer tests at the door.
“I want to cooperate with the city and the neighbors,’’ Mejia said.
Tavarez and Councilman Rigo Rodriguez said they would not support the license renewals if the Mambo Lunge continued hosting the college nights.
“I think these teen nights bring big trouble to our city,’’ said Rodriguez. “Maybe they don’t do alcohol, but they do pills and all that stuff. I’m pretty concerned about it.’’
At first, Mejia said he would reduce the hours for college nights and assign extra security for those events. But that didn’t satisfy Tavarez. “They don’t care about the neighbors, they don’t care about the neighborhood,’’’ he said.
But Andalaft argued that the Mambo Lounge was take the blame for problems of the neighborhood. He said the club’s staff frequently cleaned the area of litter and he asserted that the security patrols made the area safer. Andalafy argued the city should be cracking down on a nearby abandoned property that he said had become a focal point of trouble, including one attack on a girl headed for school in the morning.
The club is located in the 6th Ward, just on the border with the 5th Ward. It stands a few blocks from Bauerle Field. During a previous hearing on the club’s licenses, city officials provided documents showing there had been 30 calls last year requesting police to come to the area of the club. Some of those were for noise complaints and fights. But others, Andalaft pointed out, had nothing to do with the club’s operation.
Mejia told the city council he was applying for permits to install a kitchen as part of his plans for changes at the business, which has been listed as for sale on loopnet.com, a commercial real estate site.
After the unanimous vote renewing the Mambo Lounge’s licenses, Council President Anthony Davis said he disagreed with his colleagues’ criticisms of the college night events.
“I am for college nights, teen nights, anything for our teens to have a place to go where they can enjoy themselves and be properly chaperoned,’’ Davis said. “We need to have opportunities for them.’’