Prohibition returns to Poughkeepsie

The Congress Tavern located on Main Street in the City of Poughkeepsie, New York, first opened in 1935, just after the end of Prohibition. It has been owned and operated by the same family since they purchased the business in 1949. Over the years, that stretch of Main Street has seen many changes, but for many decades, that part of town has been notoriously dangerous, particularly after dark. Today, that trend continues, with two homicides within two weeks of eachother on the 400 block of Main Street, where the Congress is located.

But rather than mount an effective law-enforcement campaign to combat violence in the neighborhood, the city's Mayor John Tkazyik has seen fit to place the blame squarely on the Congress Tavern and its owner David Auffarth.

"The city is now concerned that despite efforts to implement procedures to reduce the public risk, the licensee continues to permit or suffer behavior that constitutes a disorderly premises," ~Mayor Tkazyik

What the Mayor neglects to say is that Auffarth has long been a part of police efforts in combating crime and violence on Main Street. The Congress is the only bar in Poughkeepsie with a camera surveillance system inside the bar that feeds a live stream directly to police headquarters. Auffarth himself has been a cooperating witness in many criminal cases over the years, including the most recent Main Street homicide of a notorious narco-gang leader, putting himself at grave risk in order to combat crime in the neighborhood. And how have all his efforts and risk been rewarded by the City of Poughkeepsie, the Mayor slams him for running a "disorderly premise, and has the state liquor authority revoke the Congress' license.

The state Liquor Authority this morning suspended the Congress Tavern’s license, claiming the City of Poughkeepsie bar is a threat to public safety following two recent homicides near the Main Street business.

The authority’s three-member Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 to hit the Congress with an emergency license suspension. Officials said the board can approve such suspensions if it determines an establishment poses an imminent threat to public safety.

The move means alcohol cannot be served or consumed inside the Congress, effective immediately.

Poughkeepsie Journal

The move seems to be clearly politically motivated, as the "tough on crime" Republican Mayor is launching a bid for a second term in office. Also, his own family owns and operates a bar in the City of Poughkeepsie, making this move a clear cut case of cronyism, using his political power in order shut out the competition of his family's business.

Aside from the two homicides that happened outside of the bar in the street, the last on a vacant lot next to the bar, in their complaint to the state liquor authority the city has cited "other problems. Indeed in the past on two occasions, the Congress Tavern put their liquor license at risk by cooperating with undercover police investigations. Each time, the police spoke on behalf of the tavern to the state liquor authority to show that whatever complaints or violations that were alleged were a part of their own operations, not the Congress Tavern's business operations.

With this unprecedented level of cooperation by the tavern and the live surveillance cameras inside the place, it would seem that the real failure here is the failure of police to assist the tavern owner in maintaining peace and order and to protect that stretch of Main Street from the scourge of violent criminals and illegal weapons. It is also quite curious that the Mayor would move to shut down a business that so actively cooperates with police. If one didn't know better, one might think that we had returned to the heyday of roaring-20's gangsterism and that the Mayor himself was on the payroll of one of these narco-gangs, like the one's who's founder/leader was just murdered in the lot next to the tavern.


Anonymous said...

I have never been in the Congress and don't know anyone connected with this story, but this bothers me a lot! >This is the first time I've seen any business in the city closed down because of violence in or near it! Anyone who has lived in or gone near the city in the past 20 years knows there are certain areas that are "hot spots", and that's so day or night. That particular area in general has long been linked to problems... Don't blame the bar for what crimminals do! This isn't a problem with an establishment, it's a matter of the on-going problem of crime in the city

Will NYC said...

What a joke! I drove down the very stretch where the bar is located 2 nights ago, July 13, 2011 and saw no police patrolling but COUNTLESS people loitering in groups along the stretch of Main Street in question. What will they say when the next act of violence occurs? This seems like a blatant attempt at intimidation and coercion directed at this establishment specifically....because it's mostly Gay?

Station Six Underground said...

It was a gay bar for years, but I think it became more of a local hangout in the past few years. Just the same though, that stretch of Main has always been dangerous. Hell, any stretch of Main for that matter really. But closing the Congress was a stupid idea and obviously politically motivated. There are other bars in close proximity, and more bars than that around the area. So the thugs can still get souped up and walk the block. Closing Congress changed nothing.

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