Papasito Employees Rally Against NYPD

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Earlier today, over a hundred people rallied at One Police Plaza to protest what they say is unfair treatment by the NYPD of Hispanic-owned small businesses, spurred on by the recent shuttering of Papasito Mexican Grill and Agave Bar on the Upper West Side.

Police shut down the restaurant, which has been the subject of many neighborhood complaints, last Friday for selling alcohol to minors. But the manager of Papasito and other restaurants came to police headquarters to proclaim against the methods and timing of that shutdown, which they call unnecessary, unfair and excessive.

Fernando Mateo, a spokesperson for the Northern Manhattan Restaurant and Lounge Association, was the event's main speaker.

"We want to save our businesses from the monster here behind me," he said, shouting into a megaphone that nearby officers warily allowed him to use and indicating the offices of the police commissioner Ray Kelly. "'Padlock Kelly' has made sure that our businesses get padlocked, and that all of you are unemployed, simply because there's very little communication."

Manuel Melchor, a manager at Papasito who was working when the cops closed down the restaurant on Friday, said that he simply wants the NYPD to inform him when one of his staff members illegally serves alcohol to a minor, issuing a violation on the spot so that he can properly deal with the infraction instead of waiting for a surprise raid.

"More than three months already, my occupation is just as a restaurant," Melchor said, noting that he has capitulated to local demands in cutting down on music and closing at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. "Last week, the police come in, like 15 people, 15 officers in uniforms and jackets." The police ordered the kitchen closed in the middle of dinner and escorted everyone out of the restaurant and closed it down. Melchor said that since it happened on a Friday and they could not get to court until Monday, the restaurant lost a weekend's worth of revenue and staff lost valuable shifts.

Senator Eric Adams, who represents a district in Brooklyn, also spoke at the rally, emphasizing what he says are the differences between how businesses are treated in different parts of the city and claiming that the NYPD would never padlock a downtown hotspot.

"If you don't do it on Park Avenue, you shouldn't do it on Park Avenue in the Bronx. If you don't do it in Midtown, you shouldn't do it in Washington Heights," Adams said.

Here is a short clip of Mateo speaking to the crowds.

Watch out for our full story in the March 15 edition of the West Side Spirit.

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