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End Of An ‘Empire’

Pool hall shuts its doors

Empire Billiards in New Hyde Park has apparently scratched on the eight ball. New Hyde Park village officials announced last week the bar and pool hall, which had been met with extreme criticism and community outrage for some time, shut its doors for good on Sunday, June 30. 


Village officials said they received notice about the closing when public works representatives visited the bar to conduct an inspection. Public Works Superintendent Tom

Gannon was going to issue yet another series of summons before Mayor Robert Lofaro heard Empire may close. He said the hall’s final Sunday on June 30 night saw a standing-room-only crowd with about 30 people outside the club until 2 a.m. 


“Tom was going to issue summonses on June 29,” Lofaro said after the meeting. “I told Tom to wait to see if they do in fact they close. They did. We did not issue summonses.”


New Hyde Park had imposed harsher parking restrictions around Empire and the surrounding area to mitigate complaints, prohibiting parking from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. Lofaro indicated that the village would wait 30 days to decide if the former restriction (3 a.m. to 5 a.m.) should be reinstated.


“There should be no reason that there are people parking there, but maybe we’ll send out a survey to see what the residents’ thoughts are,” he said.


Empire had been previously been cited for violating village code by operating as a billiard hall without a permit, after the village revoked its permit last year. New Hyde Park had also recently ordered the club to remove its DJ booth and dance floor.

Hall manager Harinder Singh pled guilty to the violations in village court last month. He could not be reached for comment.


“If we have five people outside the hall, someone complains, if we have 20 people outside the hall, someone complains,” Singh said after the hearing last month. “Overreaction. That’s what it is.”


Two fines totaling $250 and were due on Friday, June 28. John Turano, a Garden City-based attorney who handled the proceedings, recommended the fines be increased to $2,000. An uptick of that magnitude would have to be finalized by the village board.


The second violation was of a decorative nature. The pool hall’s window shades were not the required 54 inches from the ground. According to village officials, the shades were still not the required length as of closing day--and the club’s liquor license had expired. Empire was scheduled to appear before the state Liquor Authority.


Lofaro said the village will meet with the owner of the property to discuss the building’s future. Empire operated on a month-to-month rental agreement.


“Hopefully it’ll be an occupant or tenant that fits into the theme that would help the local businesses thrive,” said Lofaro.


While village reps indicated they do not want businesses to fail, the constant complaints, code violations and controversy surrounding the pool hall reached critical mass, ending with a locked door and vacant club.


“We are not happy that any business is not in business,” Lofaro said. “But this particular business seemed to violate the village codes in many regards.”


Nassau police recently told village officials that 14 official complaints had been filed against Empire in 2013. Fights, parking, noise and public urination near the club, although not necessarily stemming from the hall, were a few of the issues raised by concerned residents at a previous board meeting. In May, village reps had met with Third Precinct Commanding Officer Sean McCarthy to discuss the hall.


“We’ve had to do a lot of work, coordinating with the Nassau County Police Department, the fire marshal’s office, village attorney, and board of trustees, and we’re happy to report significant progress,” Lofaro stated. “[Empire] had been a source of major concern for the community and it appears that issue has now resolved itself.”