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Middle Village hookah lounge manager rebuffs Holden’s claims about ties to shooting amid liquor license revocation push

Aug. 3, 2023 By Anthony Medina

The manager of a Middle Village hookah lounge is denying claims Councilman Robert Holden made in a letter he sent to the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) last month in which he requested the removal of the establishment’s liquor license.

In his letter to the SLA, Holden wrote about the shooting death of a 19-year-old man across the street from Taj Village, located at ​​79-28 Metropolitan Ave., on Saturday, July 22. Holden said he has received multiple calls from nearby residents about drunken patrons damaging property. 

“The situation has now escalated to the point of patrons being shot and killed. You must exercise your authority immediately and pull their liquor license. As a community, we are working very hard to get the place shut down permanently,” Holden wrote. “By allowing Taj to continue to hold a license, your agency is enabling law-breakers who are bringing violence to our neighborhoods. I ask that you intervene immediately and help us shut down this business.”

Taj Village Manager George Mera denied any connection with the fatal shooting and said officers worked with the business to collect any surveillance footage of the incident. He also told QNS that none of the suspects or victims connected with the shooting entered the establishment.

Mera said the councilman is only hearing from one side about the business.

“I would love to clear it up,” Mera said. “You can go to the 104th Precinct and look up anything that has happened with us. We don’t have no fights, no robberies, no nothing. This is the first incident and it’s sad that this is what it is. A kid lost his life. I’m very upset about that, but it had nothing to do with us.”

Despite Mera’s denial, Holden told the SLA that numerous fights transpired at Taj Village and calls are often made to the police about patrons carrying guns. The councilman also referenced a legal battle between Taj Village and the building’s landlord, alleging the business hasn’t paid rent in over a year. 

Mera said the amount of 311 complaints made about the business has turned into harassment and police often visited the establishment to answer to bogus complaints. A spokesperson from DCPI said there were no incidents on record for the location of Taj Village this year. 

The legal issues mentioned by the councilman were also refuted by Mera, claiming the owner is actually attempting to sell the building despite Taj Village having a lease agreement. The building owner also allegedly hasn’t worked toward resolving violations they promised to fix, according to Mera.

“The community doesn’t support us,” Mera said. “Before you call it ‘ghetto,’ come in, see the ambiance, try the food, see the people. Give us a chance before you judge us. Because we’re just trying to make a living and provide for our families like everyone else and we’re not bringing harm to the community.”

At a recent Community Board 5 meeting, residents also brought concerns over Taj Village. The owner of Michaels Funeral Home, Michael Roemmelt, spoke to the board about an excess of garbage, loud noise at all hours of the night and a blatant disregard for neighbors. Roemmelt also asked that the board not renew the liquor license. 

Mera refuted the claims Roemmelt made during the meeting.

The board also drafted a recommendation mirroring what was said during the July board meeting, according to District Manager Giordano. Holden also made a point to remind the new liquor authority chair that he recommended not approving the liquor license for Taj Village back in May 2020. 

Mera said the business continues to operate legally, despite what Holden said in his letter. 

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