Town officials are asking a Superior Court judge to order Los Imperios Restaurant & Lounge to pay roughly $76,000 for police patrol costs and to comply with town ordinances, according to court documents filed Monday.
The town wants Los Imperios to stop operating as a nightclub; is asking the court to let it obtain a lien on the 900 Farmington Ave. property for expenses; and is asking that the restaurant hire and maintain security staff and install a video system “with high quality imaging and that is easily retrievable,” according to the court filings. Town officials also are seeking the restaurant’s financial records for the past three years.
The court filings come a month after West Hartford Police Chief Tracey Gove decided that the restaurant’s town-issued entertainment license will remain revoked and that the restaurant could not have live music or a DJ perform.
Acknowledging that municipalities fear incidents like the Pulse shooting in Orlando last June and Sunday night’s Las Vegas massacre, Gove said: “No one knows when what seems only to be noise is or becomes something far more deadly.” He described Los Imperios as “a persistent threat to the West Hartford community” with incidents that include shootings, assaults, drug use and underage drinking. In an email, Gove told The Courant the department still sees “non-compliance” and violations of the town’s entertainment ordinance.
“To that end, we are hoping for some relief from the court,” Gove said in an email. “Ultimately, we believe the best course of action for public safety is to stop the live entertainment, which correlates to the problems we have been seeing.”
Gove said the restaurant is a public nuisance and has breached its entertainment license, committed fraud and violated the town’s municipal code. According to the complaint, neighbors have made about 80 noise complaints over a nine-month period.
“These occurrences are unusual for a restaurant, and far more consistent with the negative secondary effects of a nightclub, which West Hartford does not permit,” Gove said in the complaint. “By permitting public nuisances to occur, Los Imperios has become a public nuisance.”
The complaint alleges that property owners Preston Ratliff II, Kusum Shah and Kinjal R. Shah, operating as LISARAJ LLC, have failed to terminate Los Imperios’ lease and that LISARAJ “has permitted, if not encouraged,” the activity at Los Imperios and seeks the court to hold LISARAJ liable for expenses.
“In 2017 alone, Los Imperios has had fistfights, including one that left a man unconscious and bleeding on the ‘dance floor’; gunshots fired by Los Imperios patrons; marijuana use; a steady stream of noise complaints; and incidents that Los Imperios failed to report to police,” according to the complaint.
Though the town-issued entertainment license is revoked, the restaurant has continued to offer live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
A two-officer police detail is assigned to the restaurant on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, for which the restaurant has refused to pay. According to the complaint, as of Oct. 2, Los Imperios’ private duty police detail bill is over $76,252.
The Farmington Avenue restaurant maintains an active liquor license from the state Department of Consumer Protection. Since September 2015, police have documented more than 20 referrals of alleged misconduct at the restaurant to the state liquor control commission.
The restaurant’s liquor license was suspended for 16 days last September after shots were fired outside the restaurant. The suspension was later lifted, DCP officials said, because it was found that the incident did not stem from conduct inside the restaurant.
The restaurant also had its liquor license suspended from Sept. 11 to Sept. 13 for selling alcohol to minors and having minors in the barroom.
Last fall, the town took Los Imperios to court over issues such as restricting entrance for patrons under 21, charging a cover fee and selling liquor by the bottle, which towns officials said are violations of zoning ordinances. A Hartford Superior Court Judge sided with the town, and since January, if the restaurant staff does any of those things, the town can fine the restaurant $250 per violation instead of the maximum fine of $150 per violation.
West Hartford-based attorney Rodvald Jones, who has represented the restaurant since last August, has said the town’s actions indicate a racial bias. Police have denied that, noting the numerous incidents, referrals, and complaints from neighbors. Jones declined to comment Tuesday on the town’s latest action in court.