(Updated 4:04 p.m.) Police Friday afternoon abruptly closed down an investigation of an alleged sexual assault at the Alchemy nightclub. Detectives now “lean toward” the view that the incident never happened.
Meanwhile, another club down the block is set to reopen eight weeks after a man was stabbed to death on the dance floor.
A woman told police she was sexually assaulted early Friday during an appearance by a star from the TV show “Jersey Shore” at Alchemy, at the corner of College and Crown Streets.
Shortly after midnight, a 20-year-old woman reported the alleged sexual assault to a cop outside Alchemy, according to Lt. Julie Johnson, who heads the special investigations unit.
Alchemy was featuring an appearance by MTV reality TV star Vinny Guadagnino from the show “Jersey Shore.”
At morning line-up, cops were told that the investigation is looking at a connection between the special event and the assault. An initial notice of the event distributed by the department early Friday reported that the alleged assault took place “in the establishment.”
But the woman recanted her story when detectives interviewed her on Friday, according to Assistant Police Chief Pete Reichard.
He said police have closed the case.
The woman apparently did not sustain injuries, according to Reichard.
“We’re not saying there was [an assault]. We’re not saying there wasn’t,” Reichard said. “The victim doesn’t want to go forward with the complaint.”
He did say that detectives are “leaning toward” the view that the assault didn’t happen.
In an email message, Alchemy said the woman was evicted from the club earlier in the night. The club, whose listed permittee is Rommerro Farrah, did not give a reason for the eviction.
The alleged victim “was asked to leave and did leave the premises at approximately 10:45 p.m.,” the statement reads. The woman “attempted to enter the premises at approximately 11:15 p.m. at which time she was denied entry and referred over to, and interviewed by, two New Haven Police officers,” the statement continues. The woman did not reenter the club after that, according to the statement.
Early Friday, police were under the impression that a member of the “entertainment” entourage may have been involved in the assault, according to someone familiar with the investigation.
But Reichard said later Friday that Guadagnino was the only cast member at the club, and that he was “never around” long enough at Alchemy to have much contact with the crowd.
The woman was examined at the hospital following the incident.
“MTV was in no way involved in sponsoring this event” or having any other affiliation, said MTV spokeswoman Emily Yeomans.
The club did not hire any police officers to staff the event last night, according to Assistant Police Chief Kenneth Gillespie.
“They haven’t hired extra-duty cops in a long time,” said Lt. Rebecca Sweeney, who oversees the downtown district. She said the club’s owners have “been cooperative” in general with police and attended monthly meetings about nightlife issues.
The police department does not currently require clubs to hire extra-duty cops. The city has proposed an ordinance that would allow the police chief to hire extra-duty cops to staff promoted events, then bill clubs for the overtime costs. The proposal hasn’t had a hearing yet.
State consumer protection spokeswoman Claudette Carveth said Friday morning that her department had no comment.
Meanwhile, on the same block of Crown Street, Sinergy Bar & Grille has received state permission to reopen its doors.
Sinergy, at 201 Crown St., has been closed since Dec. 1, when the state yanked its liquor license after a fatal fight. On Nov. 28, 21-year-old Bambaata Carr died in a triple-stabbing at the club. Investigators reported signs of lax security, including an unguarded rear door and a shell casing inside the club.
Police Chief James Lewis said Friday that the murder investigation remains “active.” He said detectives believe some people have relevant information they have yet to disclose. No one has been arrested in the incident.
Since the stabbing, Sinergy permittee Assunta Delmonaco has been meeting with state Liquor Control staff to sort out security measures that would allow her to reopen the club. The two sides came to terms this week.
Jerry Farrell, state commissioner of consumer protection, announced Wednesday he had ended his summary suspension of Sinergy nightclub’s liquor license, as part of an agreement that includes “a host of very strong safety and security measures.”
Under the accord, Delmonaco and Sinergy agree to:
• Staff all entrances and exits with security guards.
• Use metal-detecting wands to check clubgoers for weapons.
• Install adequate lighting and surveillance cameras.
• Conduct criminal background checks on all staff.
• Hire two extra-duty cops on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and during promoted events for the first four weeks of the agreement. After that period of time, Farrell and the city police chief will determine how much police presence is needed.
The pact calls for a new dress code that bars “do-rags, loose clothing, any clothing with gang insignias, and other clothing considered inappropriate by its security staff.”
Click here to read a press release detailing the full agreement.
After sticking to these terms for six months, Delmonaco may petition the commissioner to lift the restrictions.
In signing the agreement, the state is giving the Delmonaco family another chance to start anew.
Over the past decade, the Delmonacos have operated the same club under three different names, and have struggled to stay in good standing with liquor officials.
Assunta Delmonaco’s son Anthony first opened the club under the name Sci-Fi Café in 2001. The permit, in Anthony Delmonaco’s name, was suspended twice. He reopened the club under the name Hammer Jaks in 2006. The Liquor Control Division yanked his license in the spring of 2009 after a triple-stabbing at the club.
Delmonaco didn’t give up. He had his mother apply for a new liquor license, and reopened the club under the name Sinergy.
The Delmonacos couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday evening. The club was closed.
A nearby bar owner balked at Sinergy’s deal.
“Seems like a very light punishment,” he said.
Most of the conditions, such as hiring extra-duty cops and putting in security cameras, are routine safety measures that other clubs already perform, he said. They’re basic to the business, he said: “You’re charged with protecting the people who come inside.”
The bar owner said Sinergy is getting off “way too easy” after too many violent incidents. First, the stabbing at Hammer Jaks. “Now, there’s a murder. They’ve never learned.”
Several downtown clubs are “upset and concerned they’re being allowed to reopen,” he said.
In a press statement, Commissioner Farrell said the new agreement aims to ensure that “Sinergy will be a place where the public can go and not put their health and safety in jeopardy.”
He added a warning: “I will not hesitate to again suspend the permit, and take whatever measures legally available, to protect public health, safety, or welfare if the agreement is violated in any way.”