Anonymous tip confirmed, inspectors say: Underage drinkers at address with history
State inspectors have called owners and managers of La Fábrica Central to answer to seven charges of serving alcohol to underage patrons last fall.
Both scheduled hearings – Tuesday this week and next – have been delayed at the request of La Fábrica Central’s attorney, said Ralph Sacramone, executive director of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. No new date has been set.
La Fábrica Central is the restaurant that replaced the Monroe restaurant and nightclub at 450 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, in February 2017 after owners shut it down rather than accept Cambridge License Commission sanctions (including an earlier closing time) for being identified as the source of troubles such as nonfatal shootings and massive street brawls. Monroe was the January 2016 rebranding of the restaurant/nightclub combo Moksa and Naga at the same location after they had been tarnished by a similar history of violence.
Moksa and Naga were where restaurateur Solmon Chowdhury focused his attention after the Om restaurant and nightclub in Harvard Square was slapped by the commission for a series of incidents of crowding and overserved patrons. (Chowdhury blamed the January 2013 closing on actions by his landlord.)
The Latin-Caribbean fusion restaurant, which also hosts regular themed entertainment such as jazz and flamenco music in its 8,115-square-foot, 480-person space, has different owners than Monroe, Moksa and Naga, and Om: Hector and Nivia Pina, who also do Doña Habana in Boston’s Newmarket Square, Merengue in Roxbury and Vejigantes in the South End; and Dennis Benzan, an attorney and former vice mayor.
No more college nights
Another thing the string of restaurants has in common: Assurances to stay out of trouble by pursuing a high class of customer.
“They have built this incredible new idea in Cambridge and are searching for a very upscale, professional clientele, and are getting them,” attorney Sarah Hunt told commissioners Dec. 6, when they approved extending La Fábrica Central’s seven-day closing time by an hour, to 2 a.m. The extra time was needed for gatherings of professionals from such places as Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she said.
(When Moksa’s owners and manager rebranded it, attorney Sean Hope told commissioners it would “allow them to shift to a different, more upscale crowd” of business professional and be less known for “certain types of nightlife.”)
Before granting the additional hour, the Cambridge commission’s chairwoman, Nicole Murati Ferrer, confirmed that La Fábrica Central had ended its Thursday college nights.
“Yes, no club night – I mean, no college night,” Hunt said.
Fake IDs, or no ID
It wasn’t just an upscale, professional clientele found with La Fábrica Central drinks on the Thursdays – Sept. 21 and Oct. 26 – that brought visits by inspectors for the ABCC, which has concurrent jurisdiction on licensees within the city.
According to state documents, there was a 19-year-old who said she used a fake Colombian license to get her mojito; a 20-year-old with another fake license and a white wine; a 20-year-old who’d flashed her roommate’s “passport from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” to get a beer; a 20-year-old drinking beer who claimed not to have been carded; and a table of 18-year-olds with a beer, vodka tonic and aguardiente who said they also had not been carded.
The inspectors’ first visit was spurred by an anonymous tipster, Sacramone said Thursday. The second, when one of the seven reportedly underage drinkers was found, was a follow-up visit since a conversation with the three owners.
“Security staff stated that only individuals wearing a bracelet would be allowed to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages,” state inspector Brad Doyle said of his October visit. But the 20-year-old showing a Jordanian passport “was not wearing a colored bracelet.”
Manager in common
There is another La Fábrica Central connection to the days of Moksa, Naga and Monroe: Renato Rodriguez, who became manager of Moksa on Feb. 12, 2013, left Monroe on April 11, 2016, and became manager at La Fábrica Central on Dec. 6, the same day the club’s additional hour was granted. He’d been at the restaurant for around two months after a stint at the Bijou Nightclub & Lounge on Stuart Street in Boston, Hunt said.
His managership was approved after the state inspections and end of the college nights.
“If I remember correctly, you left before all the issues with Moksa and actually sent a letter to the board asking that the board remove you as manager of record,” Murati Ferrer said to Rodriguez in December, noting that his application said “none of the discipline was imposed while you were manager of record.”
That language seems to walk a fine line.
At a June 11, 2013, city hearing, commissioners heard police testimony about four troubled nights, including one where there were “400 people in the street in pockets of fights [with Massachusetts Avenue] effectively shut down,” leading to seven arrests. More troubles inside and outside the club led to a July 23, 2013, hearing. A May 15, 2014, hearing explored issues from three nights of dangerous activity, including fights and a stabbing that, in the words of Cambridge Police Sgt. Fred Cabral, brought “every unit in the city … every unit. Walking units. Every car. Every unit MIT had on the field responded to this [incident]. And the Harvard University wagon.” Including the 26 officers on scene and four arrests, there had been “a marked increase in the level of violence there, and it’s concerning to me,” Cabral said.
Things were relatively quiet for the rest of Rodriguez’s time as manager; he was replaced May 16, 2016, with Brig Dauber, who saw the business – by this point renamed Monroe – to its closing. There was roughly a month’s gap between Rodriguez’s resignation letter and Dauber’s approval as manager. Dauber’s era saw more violence outside the club, including a shooting.
“Although Renato Rodriguez was still listed as the ‘approved’ manager of record on the license at the time some of the incidents occurred, it was as a result of the licensee not filing an application to change the manager simultaneously with Mr. [Rodriguez’s] resignation,” said Elizabeth Lint, executive director of the city commission, in an email Thursday.
“All matters in 2016 for which Monroe was disciplined occurred after that [resignation] date,” Lint said.
An attempt to reach a La Fábrica Central attorney was unsuccessful Thursday; a message left with Rodriguez late Thursday was not returned.