Big Apple club owners are dancing with joy following a decision by the city – and its nightlife-loving mayor – to finally scrap the decades-old practice of raiding their venues during prime, late-night hours.
The much-loathed MARCH initiative, or Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots, was launched by Mayor Rudy Giuliani to fight the city’s drug-fueled crime in the 1990s. It was further employed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg after he banned smoking indoors.
“They’d come to bust my balls on a Saturday night, looking for fruit flies on my bottles at 1 a.m. They never came at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday or Thursday,” restaurateur and nightlife veteran Stratis Morfogen told Side Dish.
“I had to stop serving bottles until they finished their inspection. It was very disruptive and unfortunately very personal. And that’s why I got out of the nightclub business.“
Eddie Dean, who owned the A-list magnet Pacha in Midtown from 2005 to 2015, said his hot spot was unfairly harassed and raided twice — once around 2007 and then again around 2013 — leading to shutdowns that cost the club around $2 million in lost revenue and more than $300,000 in legal fees.
The MARCH policies were “really abused and selectively enforced,” said Dean, who currently runs industrial club Schimanski in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
“Nightlife plays a major role in New York City’s economy but for years there was no respect for club owners as hard-working entrepreneurs. Mayor Adams is the first mayor to show respect to nightlife.”
MARCH will now be replaced with an initiative called CURE — Coordinating a United Resolution with Establishments — that will enlist the city’s Office of Nightlife to act as an intermediary, Adams announced last week.
The agency will communicate with the business owners to try to resolve issues that stem from complaints first. Surprise raids during business hours will no longer be the first step — they will be a last resort, while the Office of Nightlife will continue to keep stats on the number of inspections and their results.
Paragon’s owner, John Barclay, was quoted at last week’s presser as saying the end of MARCH could “save hundreds of establishments, maybe more, and certainly hundreds if not thousands of jobs in the future.”
The Office of Nightlife was created in 2018 by former Mayor Bill de Blasio, who tapped Ariel Palitz, a global hospitality and government consultant, as the agency’s first director.
By 2019, the Office of Nightlife began to record the number of raids, which were then around 10 a month across all five boroughs, Palitz said.
The fact that Mayor Adams goes out every night has become a sort of joke, but he is supporting and appreciating small businesses as an asset, not criminalizing them as a liability,” Palitz, who stepped down last year, told Side Dish.
“The mayor’s job is not 9 to 5. He is showing respect for a 24-hour city and nightlife businesses that contribute to the city’s economy and culture.”