On Monday afternoon, PJ’s Bar and Lounge, on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at West 132nd Street, seemed a shell of its former self, with a metal grate pulled down over its storefront, as passersby ignored its presence. Perched on the bar’s cement stoop was a small silver stool topped with stuffed animals, fabric flowers, and a balloon—the only evidence of the tragedies that have left the Harlem mainstay facing closure.
Since February 2012, the bar has been the backdrop for eight incidents of violence, including four shootings, a robbery, an assault on a police officer, a fatal stabbing, and a recent fatal shooting. The latest incident occurred in the early morning of Jan. 8, when a 33-year-old man—confirmed to be Calvern Wallace by the Office of the Deputy Commissioner—died after being shot in the head by another patron at the bar.
Now, the New York Police Department has filed a lawsuit against Elizabeth Pace Goodwin, the owner of PJ’s, requesting the city to close the bar for at least a year. Goodwin could not be reached for comment for this story.
The verified complaint, issued on Jan. 21, said that the bar “has been the site of multiple incidents of illegal and dangerous behavior violating the New York State Penal Law and the New York City Administrative Code.”
The lawsuit said that Goodwin and “the operators of the establishment appear to have evinced a ‘business as usual’ attitude” despite the violent incidents.
It goes on to state that “the defendants have owned, leased, used, operated, maintained, allowed, and/or conducted the subject premises in a manner which is dangerous to human life and detrimental to health.”
As the lawsuit notes, the bar has been closed twice before. The first closure occurred in March 2009 as a result of the selling of alcohol to minors. In January 2010, the NYPD shut it down for employing unlicensed security guards.
Residents in the surrounding neighborhoods said they did not know about the controversial circumstances enveloping the bar—and some didn’t care to know much either.
“I do my thing and then I go home,” Robert Peter, an employee at Parlour Shoppe—a barbershop two doors down from the bar—said, adding that he had heard about the recent shooting but did not know any of the details.
However, Abdul M. Malik, co-owner of Seven Grains Health Food located on the other side of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, said he was sad about the whole situation. He is close friends with the bar’s manager, known to the neighborhood as “Pat.”
“She and I were good friends for many years,” Malik said of the manager, who was nowhere to be found. “I feel bad for everybody; the kid who got shot, the kid who did it, their families, and Pat.”