NYC bartenders using chat groups to warn each other about violent thugs
Besieged by rampant crime and slow police response times, bartenders and bouncers in New York City are using private chat groups to warn each other about violent felons and other threats to both staff and customers, Side Dish has learned.
Nearly three dozen employees of 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 about potential threats from criminals and other lowlifes inside and out their bars.
In a recent text exchange shown to Side Dish, a group member posted a terrifying video of a fierce-looking customer fighting his way into a bar, slapping a stool and waving at a bouncer, even after appearing to be mobbed.
‘That’s the man who grabbed me by the stool. Seven stitches, blood and concussion,” the bouncer wrote, asking that he and his location not be identified.
“Went in on my day shift yesterday,” it sounded in another. “Decided to yell at me, walk around the whole bar and stare at me.”
Yet another employee said he called 911 for fear of imminent danger posed by the same felon — with a lack of a satisfactory response from the police.
“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 help?’ And then [the police] showed [up] Three hours late,’ the staffer complained.
Complaints from frustrated workers come as the city’s nightlife continues to grapple with a wave of lawlessness since the pandemic.
East Village bar staff came together to form the Instagram chat group in late 2021 to protect themselves from threats like Earl Gumbs, who was charged with the fatal assault 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 are not prioritized by 911 unless suspects are armed or violent.
“I walk to the police station and an hour later they say the 911 number just came in. And when they show up, they get in a car and don’t get out. There may have been a stabbing or murder during that time,” Romero added.
According to Romero, Gumbs was a threat known to many bartenders in the East Village.
“He terrorized young women who worked at the bar. Then he’d run away,” said Romero, who added that he once had to “talk Gumbs out” after he kicked in a door and threatened to kill another bartender.
Gumbs, 37, was charged with manslaughter in Patterson’s death but was released pending trial. He was recently seen lurking in the East Village, and the Gumbs sighting lit up texts between members of the chat group.
“Be careful. Earl is around. I saw him last night at 4:30 p.m.,” read a recent text message viewed by Side Dish.
Watching for violent people is unfortunately part of the job now, several nightlife workers said.
In a group chat, a bartender posted a photo of someone they booted up, then posted a warning to others. “[Name] just kicked him out [bar name] he and his friend are over.
Another added: “Yes, no, please be safe because his boys were the ones who had a gun that one time. Obviously I don’t know if they are the same guys, but yes.
In one incident on February 27, 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, got no service, started beating her and refused to leave, said Hannah, who would not give her last name.
“He got more aggressive. Then he started cursing and getting aggressive with customers who pushed him out,” Hannah said.
“Then he was outside, locked out, and so he started banging on the door, and he opened everything in the bin and started throwing things at the windows. He found a wheelchair and started throwing it and threatening to shoot a gun in the window.
“I was on the phone with 911. I asked for an ETA. ‘Do you hear him? He threatens to shoot through the window.’ She [the 911 operator] said asking for an ETA wouldn’t get anyone to come faster… The boy banged on the door for almost 30 minutes and no one showed up.
By the time police arrived, the teen had fled, Hannah said, adding she was grateful other bartenders showed up and helped.
A police spokesperson told Side Dish that the 911 call did not involve a firearm or wheelchair, and that calls are answered on a priority basis.
“This dispute was not a priority task. Officers will be the first to respond to and handle priority tasks. At the time of the dispute, priority jobs included a knife dispute, a violent emotionally disturbed person, a ShotSpotter activation and a person snooping around a location,” the spokesperson said.
Romero said the community appreciates the police and wants to see more of them — not less.
“We do business with everyone, just like Starbucks,” Romero said. “There are psychopaths going from bar to bar, and we need cops to diffuse situations before they kill people.”
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