[Updated, May 24] West Hartford Police say that Los Imperios is once again in violation of the town’s entertainment ordinance, and as part of that process will be putting together a remediation plan, and in addition the establishment has until May 27 to avoid having to pay for police detail, but Los Imperios’ attorney Rodvald Jones, disagrees.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford Police have informed Los Imperios that it is in violation of the town’s entertainment ordinance, and have added to enforcement efforts through the most recent letter sent by Chief Tracey Gove to Los Imperios owner Ernesto Leon.
On Tuesday We-Ha.com received a copy of that letter, dated May 22, 2017, which informs Leon of the incidents that have taken place since Gove’s previous written correspondence to Leon on May 3. In addition to the incidents detailed below, Gove said that police received two emailed complaints and 10 phoned-in complaints during the weekend of May 5.
Police also received calls from residents the weekend of May 14 concerning noise, Gove wrote in his letter. Also referenced was an incident on May 14, when what was referred to as a “brawl” took place inside the establishment. Several patrons were reportedly hit and police said that Los Imperios’ security guard could not stop the incident from escalating. Police were notified of the incident by the sister of one of the men who was assaulted, and Gove also told Leon that when officers attempted to find him to conduct their investigation, they were told he had “just left” and no one else on the premises was able to assist in review of surveillance video.
“All these incidents are occurring during the times that you provide a DJ,” Gove stated in his letter. “It is clear that you have been unable to successfully address these and past issues under your current business plan, and this has led to serious public safety concerns,” Gove wrote.
Gove informed Leon that under the terms of section 75-7 of the town’s code (the entertainment ordinance), the business has five business days to present him with evidence “that you believe is relevant to the decision of whether to order a private duty police detail.”
If police do not receive that evidence, Gove said that beginning Saturday, May 27, the detail will be required, at a cost to Los Imperios of $1,362 per night, paid in advance by cash or check, on any night that the establishment has a DJ.
Gove added that the hiring of police detail will not preclude any penalties for violations under the entertainment ordinance.
Rodvald Jones, the attorney representing Los Imperios and its owner, Ernesto Leon, responded Wednesday morning and said that he will be deferring comments on the latest letter requiring the hiring of private duty police detail until later.
Jones did say that it is his understanding that based on the working of the entertainment ordinance, a response is not required until Tuesday, May 30. “Pursuant to the ordinance the response is needed in five business days,” Jones said Wednesday.
Jones added that he is still awaiting “discovery” from police – referencing the reports about the incidents that led to the most recent letter from Chief Gove, notably the incident referenced as a “brawl” on May 14.
“As of yesterday I have not received those,” Jones said.
“This is a surprise to us. This is all happening in a surprising manner,” said Jones. “We would love for this to be resolved and that’s what we are trying to do.”
West Hartford Police are moving forward against Los Imperios with enforcement of the town’s entertainment ordinance, but the establishment’s attorney does not believe his client has done anything in violation of the town’s rules and is committed to working with the town to remedy any issues that could have a negative impact on the neighborhood.
West Hartford Police Chief Tracey Gove said Friday that in responding to incidents, the department is “working through the entertainment ordinance. It’s a work in progress.” The West Hartford Town Council passed the entertainment ordinance in October 2016.
Asst. Chief Robert McCue said the ultimate goal is to “keep [Los Imperios] in business, to get him to be a good neighbor.”
On Monday, McCue said that Lt. Sam Ferfucci and Det. Kevin Harrison met with Los Imperios owner Ernesto Leon and his attorney, Rodvald Jones, on May 19 to discuss a May 14 disturbance.
Los Imperios has been issued and fined $100 for that May 14 disturbance, an incident detailed below that police said was in violation of West Hartford’s entertainment ordinance. That represents the second violation of the ordinance in the past six months, police said, and the next step is to have Los Imperios put together a remediation plan.
In a separate effort, related to another section of the entertainment ordinance, West Hartford Police have also discussed with Los Imperios the need for the establishment to pay for police detail. The cost for the detail, which would include two officers plus cruisers from 8 p.m. until closing, would be $1,362 per night
On May 3, 2017, West Hartford Police hand-delivered a letter from Gove, dated May 1, to Los Imperios owner Ernesto Leon, informing him that complaints from neighbors of the 902 Farmington Ave. business have continued and unless they end immediately, the business will need to pay for police detail for all nights the establishment has a DJ.
Leon, through attorney Jones, responded in a letter dated May 10, indicating that the owner and management were “oblivious as to the recent complaints indicated” in that letter.
Jones requested that police provide him with “any and all incident reports, emails, or correspondences related to each of the incidents referenced in your letter of intent.”
In his response, Jones also told police that according to his understanding, “Los Imperios has not committed any violation of the entertainment ordinance, West Hartford Code, or Connecticut General Statutes to merit such an undue burden of paying for a police detail.”
Since then, according to police, there have actually been several more incidents.
Police told We-Ha.com in an email that on May 14 they received a call from a woman who said that her brother had been “‘jumped’ by some people” inside Los Imperios.
Police were stationed at the business monitoring the front door at the time, they said, and saw a disturbance breaking out.
One patron told police that he had been truck in face by a group of patrons. “A short time later they located a second person, the brother of the woman that called, who had cut to his face. Both claimed that they had been hit for no reason inside the club,” police said, while the others said they had hit the men “in self-defense.”
Police said that according to witnesses, the two groups of patrons had been arguing “when a punch was thrown and a ‘brawl’ broke out and that people that had not been involved in the argument also began to fight.”
Police said they are continuing to investigate that incident, including a review of security video.
In another incident report provided by West Hartford Police, a situation early in the evening on May 5, 2017, took place where a large group of people congregating outside Los Imperios was “impeding access or egress to the building.” Police said a similar situation had taken place on April 22.
According to police, Los Imperios’ security staff were notified of the situation by Det. Todd Myers and were successfully able to move people from blocking the entrance/exit, but the crowd re-formed about 10 minutes later.
“Just as the security guard stepped away from the door a large amount of the crowd began to rush the door and created a stampede effect,” police stated in the report of the May 5 incident. Patrons were able to push their way inside the establishment, police said.
In his report, Myers said that he spoke with Leon after the May 5 incident, and was told that “he and his staff will try to keep patrons from rushing the door.”
Police said that they also brought the incident to the attention of the fire department.
Myers and Det. Harrison, along with Fire Chief Gary Allyn, Asst. Chief Mike Sinsigalli – who is also the fire marshal – and Asst. Chief Richard Winn, met with Leon on the afternoon of May 10, police said.
According to the police report, Sinsigalli provided some guidelines for keeping the entrance and exit free of obstructions, including roping off and adding stanchions to an area outside for patrons to line up. Sinsigalli also told Leon that for safety reasons vehicles cannot be parked in front of the door, and he would begin the process of having that area designated as a fire lane.
Previous incidents noted in Gove’s May 1 letter included eight noise complaints made by neighbors the the last weekend of April, as well as complaints about illegal parking, garbage left behind, fights, and drug and alcohol use.
In addition, a Milton Street resident emailed a letter to Los Imperios on April 29, with a copy to police, and stated that the resident has been “dealing with noise, broken bottles, people yelling, people even peeing on my neighbors lawns and in the road for over two years. I am woken up every single weekend and usually I’m awake from the time people arrive around 11 PM until the time police have to ask people to leave which is usually close to 2 AM.” That email was accompanied by photographs of discarded food wrappers and cups, as well as cigarettes, liquor bottles, and used feminine products left on the side of the road or on the lawn.
McCue said he does not know how long it will take for Los Imperios to submit its remediation plan to police.
Jones, in his May 10 letter to Gove, said that Los Imperios will reinstate free valet service and has undertaken measures “far beyond the requirements at huge financial costs to maintain the order which benefit the patrons, law enforcement and the community at large.”
According to both Gove and McCue, it is critical that Los Imperios run a business “consistent with a restaurant, not a nightclub.”
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