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Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan declared a State of Emergency Friday in order to shutter a city bar police say is linked to a recent spike in violence.
The Democrat cited a 22% increase of confirmed shots fired over 28 days compared to the same period last year. The State of Emergency allows the city to shut down any business deemed a public nuisance — in this case, Café Hollywood on Lark Street.
Sheehan said “I issued the state of emergency because we had a specific location in the city that has been the source of a number of challenges and a number of police calls and I felt a very strong sense of urgency that it needed to be closed that we didn’t want to go through another weekend of potential violence at that location. And so I issued an executive order that allowed us to waive the notice period that would be required for us to shut that location down is a nuisance.”
Police Chief Eric Hawkins said police connected the bar to the early morning incident where a 34-year-old man was shot in the head near the intersection of Willett Street and Hudson Avenue. The man, identified as Lamon Lanier of Albany, died of his injuries on Saturday.
In early June, officials connected a machete attack to an altercation that began at the bar. Authorities say Café Hollywood has been the subject of more than 20 calls for service over the last three months.
Café Hollywood owner Colin Rost tells Spectrum News his business had no connection to the shooting and says he takes all precautions to keep patrons safe.
“I think that the neighborhood is not used to the fact that all of a sudden there’s people now out on the street, so we get a little bit more complaints. But, at the end of the day, we are running a safe business, and we absolutely have all the staff we need in place to make sure that we are doing a great job.”
Again, Mayor Sheehan:
“We need for everyone to be part of the solution. And, you know, I would hope that the owner of this establishment looking at the acts of violence that have occurred on that premises and around that premises would join us in trying to become part of that solution.”
The city has issued a Cease and Desist order citing a “non-compliant café patio area” and asked the New York State Liquor Authority to revoke the bar’s liquor license as a result of recent violence.
Greg Rinckey, a founding partner of the Tully Rinckey law firm, says the city’s action comes as a warning sign to other bar and restaurant owners: if your place of business is generating a lot of complaints of violence or nuisance, the city could come in and shut you down.
“You have to police your own establishment, meaning, you know, hey, if you’ve got problem people there, you’ve got to have people on staff to take care of it and ensure the safety of not only your patrons, but the safety of the neighborhood as well. You know, I mean, there’s defenses. And the defense could be is that, you know, this is something that occurred after they had been at the cafe or was not involved in the cafe, right? In it, we’ll see how it plays out. But I think this does come as a wake up call and a warning to other establishments within the city of Albany, that violence and nuisance within the neighborhood is not going to be tolerated. You know, you have a special privilege when you’re granted a liquor license, and that can be revoked.”
The State Liquor Authority responded to a request for comment via email, saying:
“Businesses licensed to sell alcoholic beverages are entitled to due process in any disciplinary action taken by the State Liquor Authority. The SLA is coordinating with the City of Albany and will take appropriate action upon the receipt of the documentation relating to the shooting and other reported incidents at or near the Café Hollywood premises.”
Rinckey says the Cafe’s next step could be to retain counsel. “… and counsel could go into state court and try and get a temporary restraining order to stop the city from shutting them down pending the hearing.”
Albany police did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said they are investigating a shooting that occurred around 2 a.m. along Washington Avenue. Investigators say they were notified by staff at Albany Medical Center Hospital that a 16-year-old male walked into the emergency room with a gunshot wound to his arm. Upon arrival, the victim told officers that he was shot by an unknown suspect while in the area of Washington Avenue and Quail Street just prior to arriving at the hospital.
A 30-year-old man died Saturday hours after he was shot in the torso in an early morning incident at Third and Oak Streets in the city’s West Hill neighborhood. Two others were also injured in that shooting.
It comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s July 6th declaration of a state of “disaster emergency” over gun violence across New York — along with $138 million in new spending to try to stop the surge in shootings. Cuomo’s seven-point plan calls gun violence an “emergency public health issue.”