Besieged with rampant crime and sluggish response times from police, New York City bartenders and bouncers are using private chat groups to warn each other about violent thugs and other threats to staff and customers alike, Side Dish has learned.
Nearly three dozen workers at East Village haunts Lucy’s, Doc Holliday’s, The Spotted Owl Tavern, Spikes, Beetle House, Phoenix Bar and Niagara have begun sharing information via an Instagram chat group on potential threats from criminals and other lowlifes inside and outside their bars.
In one recent text exchange shown to Side Dish, a group member posted a terrifying video of a fierce-looking patron pushing his way into a bar, punching and swing a stool at a bouncer even after he appeared to get maced.
“That’s the guy who got me with the stool. Seven stitches, blood and concussion,” wrote the bouncer, who asked that he and his venue not be identified.
“Came in during my day shift yesterday,” chimed in another. “Decided to scream at me walk around the whole bar and stare me down.”
Yet another staffer said he called 911 out of fear of imminent danger being caused by the same thug — with a lack of satisfactory response from the cops.
“The [911 operator] could literally hear him screaming in the background about how he was going to kill me and they were like ‘oh is he still there? Do you need assistance?’ And then [the police] showed [up] 3 f—ing hours late,” the staffer complained.
Gripes from frustrated workers come as the city’s nightlife continues to grapple with a tide of lawlessness since the pandemic.
East Village bar staffers banded together near the end of 2021 to form the Instagram chat group to protect themselves against threats like Earl Gumbs, who was indicted in the fatal beating of bouncer Duane Patterson, 61, outside a Chelsea bar last Christmas Eve.
Lucy’s bartender Ivan Romero, who also manages the popular Avenue A joint, said the main problem is that incidents aren’t prioritized by 911 unless suspects are armed or violent.
“I’ll walk over to the precinct and they say, an hour later, that the 911 call is just coming in. And if they do show up, they’ll roll up in a car and not get out. There could have been a stabbing or killing in that time,” Romero added.
Gumbs was a menace well-known by many bartenders in the East Village, according to Romero.
“He’d terrorize young females working the bar. Then he’d run,” said Romero, who added he once had to “talk down” Gumbs after he kicked in a door and threatened to kill another bartender.
Gumbs, 37, was charged with manslaughter in Patterson’s death but released while awaiting trial. He was recently spotted lurking in the East Village, and the Gumbs sighting lit up texts between members of the chat group.
“Be cautious. Earl is around. I saw him at 4:30 last night,” read one recent text message viewed by Side Dish.
Looking out for violent people is now, sadly, part of the job, several nightlife workers said.
In one group chat, a bartender posted a photo of someone they booted and then posted a warning to others. “[Name] just kicked him out of [bar name] him and his friend are about.
Added another: “Yeesh no please everyone be safe because his boys are the ones that had a gun that one time. Obviously idk if it’s the same boys but yeah.”
In a Feb. 27 incident, a female bartender at Lucy’s named Hannah told Side Dish that she called 911 about a teen threatening her with a gun but had to wait two hours for police to arrive.
The underage boy had come in, was denied service, began hitting on her and refused to leave, said Hannah, who didn’t want to give her last name.
“He became more aggressive. Then he started cursing and getting aggressive with patrons who pushed him out,” Hannah said.
“Then he was outside, locked out, and so he started banging on the door, and he opened up everything in the trash and started throwing things at the windows. He found a wheelchair and started throwing it and threatened to shoot in the window with a gun.
“I was on the phone with 911. I asked for an ETA. ‘Do you hear him? He’s threatening to shoot through the window.’ She [the 911 operator] said that asking for an ETA wouldn’t make anyone come faster….The kid was banging on the door for almost 30 minutes and nobody showed up.”
By the time the cops arrived, the teen had fled, Hannah said, adding that she was thankful other bartenders showed up and helped.
A police spokesperson told Side Dish the 911 call did not mention a firearm or wheelchair, and that calls are answered according to priority.
“This dispute was not a priority job. Officers will respond to and handle priority jobs first. At the time of the dispute, there were priority jobs going on which included a dispute with a knife, a violent emotionally disturbed person, a ShotSpotter activation, and an individual prowling a location,” the spokesperson said.
Romero said the community values police and wants to see more of them — not less.
“We deal with everyone, just like Starbucks,” Romero said. “There are psychos who go from bar to bar, and we need cops to come and diffuse situations before they murder people.”
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