By Jilleen Barrett, Managing Editor/Features Editor
After an altercation in Fenwick’s involving a gun, owner Rich Puentes is enforcing a new rule: only Manhattan College students will be admitted to the bar Thursday through Friday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
The incident, which took place at around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, involved two separate groups of local women. One group had put money in the bar’s jukebox to play music when the other group paid more money and skipped the first group’s songs.
“If you come here a lot, then you know that if you pay more money, you can skip someone’s song,” Puentes said.
“There were some locals here who unfortunately don’t come here often … [they] put their money in the jukebox. And then another group of locals put their money in after but paid more money to skip the songs of the [first group]. Obviously, if you don’t know that’s happening, that kind of seems like ‘Well, this person just skipped all my songs, I paid money.’ So that was like the reason for the altercation.”
Puentes explained how the first group of women approached the second group, not aware of the reason their songs were skipped, and that escalated into a physical argument.
“Then punches were thrown [between the women], there was mace in the air and a couple of beer buckets were thrown around and stuff like that,” Puentes said. “And eventually my security team came in and dragged them out.”
This is when Puentes and other staff members of Fenwick’s started asking people to leave. However, the altercation didn’t end there.
Puentes explained that both of the groups of women had some male friends with them who began to fight outside the bar and inside of Jasper’s Deli, just two doors away.
A group of students from Manhattan College went to Jasper’s Deli after they evacuated the bar. It is not unusual for Manhattan students to visit the deli commonly known as “J-Del” after spending time at Fenwick’s, but what happened during their visit was not quite as typical.
One of the students, a female, explained to The Quadrangle how the men continued their fight inside the deli which led to her hitting her head on the front counter. Shortly after, one of the men — who was outside the deli at this point — pulled out a firearm.
“The people who were fighting ended up coming into Jasper’s Deli,” she said.
“And in there I just remember being pushed up against the counter — I hit my head on the counter … After that, one of the workers in Jasper’s Deli told me and my friends to go back into the big refrigerator in the back where they keep the extra drinks. So we waited there and then once it sounded like they had left [and] the fight had stopped, we walked back out of the refrigerator and then one of the workers [said] ‘No, you have to get back in there. He has a gun’.”
Puentes saw the firearm from inside Fenwick’s and called the police.
“I saw that one of the guys who were outside had a firearm, so I did what anybody would do in that case and called the cops,” Puentes said. “And so that’s just where it got to that point where … they’re fighting outside and then someone had a firearm … I’m not letting my security guards out there to disarm them.”
As Puentes dialed 911, bartender and junior at Manhattan College, Taryn O’Connell, was instructing all of Fenwick’s remaining patrons from the night to go into their storage unit downstairs. Having worked at Fenwick’s for about six months, O’Connell has never felt unsafe there before and does not feel it will be an issue in the future.
“I’ve never been in a situation like that,” O’Connell said. “I feel like it was handled appropriately … I felt like the people around me were keeping me safe … it was better that it was at the end of the night where there weren’t that many [Manhattan] College students here, we’d already called last call … As things got bad, I kind of gave everyone a big hug and shoved everyone [downstairs].”
The 50 Precinct declined to comment on the matter, and The Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information did not respond to The Quadrangle’s request for a comment.
Safety will now be further emphasized at Fenwick’s, particularly for Manhattan College students.
The rule establishes that a Manhattan College ID card or Glance app green pass must be presented to the bouncer between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. It was officially set in stone one day after the incident, the night of Saturday, Feb. 12.
Puentes explained why he chose this rule as opposed to something more strict, like checking bags or having each patron go through a metal detector. He explained that during his day job as a teacher, he sees young children go through these procedures each day, and doesn’t want to see the same at Fenwick’s.
“When I see kids pass through the metal detectors, it doesn’t make me feel good,” Puentes said. “As an educator, I don’t like to see the system do that to people. So why would I then do that in a place that I own? … [incidents like Saturday morning’s] are isolated incidents and do things that are beyond our control. We just can’t control those things. And I don’t think that being stricter on and using those means to control things is gonna work in the future.”
That’s not the only way Puentes is making the bar even more Manhattan College friendly — he said the business is developing an app that will offer rewards to its customers, which will give students the chance to save some money when they go out.
“It’s going to be like a reward system,” Puentes said. “The more money you spend and the more time you spend here, the more points you get. And you can use those points to do many things you like, get discounts on drinks, it’s almost like a flash pass at Six Flags, for the line.”
Manhattan College students are already feeling better with these regulations. Madeline Donohue, a senior who was also hiding in the back of Jasper’s Deli during the altercation, said she feels safe returning to Fenwick’s in the future.
“[The new rule] shows that Fenwicks does value the safety of the college kids,” Donohue said.
“Unfortunately Fenwicks does represent real world experiences and dangerous things can happen anytime you’re out somewhere with strangers. Especially when alcohol is involved, there’s only so much the establishment can do to protect you. It’s obviously something that has taken up a lot of my mind after happening, but it’s not an isolated incident to just Fenwicks.”