After a bullet grazed a young woman's head near Greenpoint club The Production Lounge early in the morning of February 14th, there's been considerable outcry from local residents who say the gunfire was just the climax of months of cacophony erupting from the bar since it opened. At a community meeting with the 94th Precinct last week, neighbors gave police an earful, and this past weekend there was a giant police spotlight parked outside. Owner Joe Ariola spoke with us at length today; he explained that the lights are NYPD "protocol after a shooting," and told us that "based on the description police have of the shooter, this individual was not in our establishment the night of this incident." He continued:
Just to clarify, we have never had a fight in this place. We've never had to throw anyone out. We don't even have bouncers!... Police have told me that the girl left our place and was walking down the street when she was shot. It did not happen directly outside our place. But because we had an African-American social event that night and the shooter description is African-American, people have tied this to us. We probably do one or two events a week that have a very mixed culture crowd, mainly because we do a lot of events for up-and-coming artists, and a lot of those people happen to be either black or Spanish.
When asked if he thought the community backlash against The Production Lounge had a racist element to it, Ariola said, "Absolutely... We had a fundraiser here recently and someone called the police because there were people outside the place. When the police arrived, there was nobody outside our place, but down the block in front of two other bars there was a combination of probably 15 people. So why are the police being bothered to target our place? Because the person doing the fundraiser that night was African-American and the clientele was mostly black."
Below, Ariola concedes The Production Lounge needs to make some changes when it comes to noise.
I will say that when we do have music on certain nights, it does probably get loud in here, and we are working on that. Our place is already soundproofed, but we are getting a sound blanket to block the sound from going out the door. The biggest problem is that people have to go outside to smoke... We were issued a summons for a disorderly thing on the particular night [of the shooting]. It's protocol to give it to us and we are going to go and defend it because there is no connection between what happened that night and our place.
What I don't understand is that on any given day any one of these bars could have a fight. Say you own a place and I go in and get in a fight, is it right for you to be blamed because there was a fight?
Believe me, I'm not taking anything away from the shooting because that scared the hell out of me, too. But I think people are painting a drastically bad picture of us for some reason. I'm 47 years old with two girls. My daughters work here on any given day. There are a lot of nights where there's everything from comedy to film screenings to karaoke to musicians to belly dancing. It's not a club every night. And I don't understand why we're being picked on for that shooting just because we had an African-American crowd that night. Like I said, even if the shooter did come from here, is that a direct reflection on us?