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Taurus Threatens Suit As City Cracks Down

by Melissa Bailey | May 9, 2011 4:33 pm

(26) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Newhallville

Melissa Bailey Photo As Larry Livingston begins a new chapter at a controversial Newhallville bar, the neighborhood’s top cop is turning on his flood lights, ticketing cars and trying to get a “head start” on violence, while the club considers a lawsuit in return..

Livingston (pictured), who’s 62, runs the Taurus Cafe at 520 Winchester Ave. in the heart of the Newhallville neighborhood.

As the neighborhood’s top cop makes an extra effort to prevent crime on that corner, Livingston claims he’s being “harassed” by police, and has retained Branford lawyer Ed Marcus to explore the possible lawsuit. Marcus has filed a Freedom of Infromation request with the city and last week notified the police chief of his plans.

Mayor John DeStefano has sought for years to shut down the club, calling it a nexus of “thuggery” that has “terrorized” the neighborhood. The club officially closed June 2007, when the state yanked Livingston’s liquor license. DeStefano vowed to keep it closed, but Livingston found a way to get state permission to reopen.

“I’m back open legally,” he said Friday. “I got my license.”

He quickly clarified that the official liquor license-holder is a woman named Paulette Moye, whom Livingston described as a friend. Livingston founded the club in 1984 and named it after his zodiac sign. He no longer owns the business; he handed it over to his daughter, Alesha Boyds.

The Taurus reopened Nov. 27 with Livingston as the “manager,” he explained in an interview Friday afternoon in the red-lit lounge.

After clearing state bureaucratic hurdles, he’s now facing with a new obstacle: The watchful eyes of a man named Thaddeus Reddish.

Paul Bass File PhotoReddish (pictured), who grew up in Newhallville, is now a lieutenant on the city police force. He took over two years ago as the top cop of that neighborhood’s police district. He has been familiar with the Taurus for decades, as it became notorious as a hotspot for drug-dealing, shootings and stabbings. The club sits in a six-block radius of Newhallville with one of the highest crime rates in the city, an area where community activists have been focusing an anti-crime campaign.

Now that the club has reopened, Reddish has made a point to keep a close watch over it. In February he began an aggressive campaign to enforce what he calls “quality of life” violations in the immediate area. In an interview Friday, he recounted his effort to get ahead of crime in the area, in a neighborhood that’s close to his heart.

Reddish said in his travels through Newhallville, lots of people would “walk up to me and complain about the Taurus.” The club is tucked into a mostly residential part of town. Clubgoers would block neighbors’ driveways with their cars. When the club let out, patrons would talk loudly, disperse into dark streets, often with fighting and gunfire. Reddish said the problems culminated in a double-shooting earlier this year. One man was shot in the hand, the other in the leg. The shooting took place farther down Thompson Street after the club let out, he said.

Reddish said when he was assigned to manage a “suppression detail” aimed at curbing crime, he decided the Taurus would be a good home base on Friday and Saturday nights. Cops park their cars nearby at the start of the shift, go to other calls as needed, and return around midnight to monitor the bar closing.

The detail focuses on “quality of life” complaints, like the cars that are parked in front of or sometimes in neighbors’ driveways, Reddish said. Cops have handed out dozens of parking tickets for clubgoers’ cars in bus stops and too close to driveways or street corners.

Reddish got the city to put in double-thick Jersey barriers and no trespassing signs in a city-owned lot next to the club, where patrons had been illegally parking their cars.

For the last couple of months, as the clock nears midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, cops have met back at the Taurus. Reddish parks in a driveway across the street. Other cops park nearby. They flood the area with overhead lights, which Livingston described as overpowering.

“People walking out have to cover their eyes,” said Livingston (pictured outside the club).

Reddish said the corner is otherwise very dark.

“We add lights so we can get a clear view of the group and the crowd coming out,” he explained. The lights and the police presence send a message to potential loiterers to get going. “Why would you want to stand around when a bunch of cops are just standing there?”

The club sits at the corner of Thompson Street and Winchester Avenue. Reddish said he blocks traffic on Thompson in order “to make it easier to monitor.” That limits traffic to Winchester, where cops can keep an eye out.

Reddish said the tactic has worked: “Everybody empties out without incident.”

He said neighbors are pleased. When he lets Thompson Street neighbors through to their homes, they give him a thumbs up.

“People come up to me and thank us for keeping it quiet.”

Back at the Taurus, Livingston had a different view. He said the stepped-up enforcement has cost him 50 percent of business at his club.

“We’re being targeted, that’s the bottom line,” said one regular patron (pictured), who gave his name only as Rev. He described himself as Livingston’s cousin.

Livingston said Reddish’s operation fits in with a pattern of “harassment” dating back at least four years.

Mayor DeStefano in 2007 launched a campaign to crack down on the Taurus and several other “problem bars.” In a tense series of hearings, neighbors and city officials lobbied the state to shut down the club on the grounds that it drew violent crime to the area. One of the few neighbors who came forward to testify was a woman who had moved into a Habitat for Humanity house across the street from the club. After she testified, Habitat got an anonymous phone call threatening to burn its offices down, according to city officials. The woman fled the house, which remains vacant to this day.

Livingston ended up losing his liquor license due to alleged tax and labor violations, not incidents of violence. When he continued to run what he called a “restaurant” in the club, the city arrested him for allegedly violating a cease and desist order. After a criminal trial that highlighted some poorly defined wording in city zoning regs, Livingston was found not guilty of the charges. He said he did not continue to run the business after that for fear of more “harassment.”

Mayor DeStefano vowed to block him from reopening last November, but was unable to.

Back in the Taurus, Livingston defended his business. He said his patrons, most of whom live in Newhallville, come in the early evening to play chess and watch sports on seven televisions. Some play pool. Later at night, a younger crowd from 21 to 30 hits the dance floor. The club has a CD player and a computer with iTunes that plays hip-hop and R&B.

Livingston said some amount of crime outside the bar is inevitable.

“This is Newhallville, the poorest community in New Haven,” Livingston said. “You’re going to have crime, not because of the bar, but because of poverty.”

Livingston said he used to go to the club as a teenager in the ‘60s when it was run by two Italian-Americans. He saw a shootout inside the bar, and a friend of his got “cut up.”

The Taurus isn’t like that anymore, Livingston vowed. He said there have been no violent incidents inside the club since he reopened. Livingston said he’s in the process of mounting 30 surveillance cameras to add security at the club; eight have already been installed. He pointed to a metal detector at the door, which he said he installed in 2007. He said the club has a woman who pats down customers for weapons, and several bouncers are stationed throughout the club.

Rev said the club shouldn’t be judged on past performance.

“This is a new day,” he declared.

He showed up to the interview wearing a large black shirt with the Warner Brothers logo.

“If you see da police, Warn a Brother,” read the sparkling silver letters.

The same motto is posted on a sticker over the threshold to the club.

Livingston said he used to hire two extra-duty cops for security. At least one testified on his behalf at the state liquor hearings. But since the city eliminated extra-duty “hold-downs,” Livingston can no longer pick the cops at his door. He said he stopped hiring any police officers, because he’s worried that a cop from Reddish’s crew, a cop who he feels is “harassing us,” might get rotated in for the job.

Plus, added Rev, “What’s the need to hire cops if they’re already out there?”

Rev called the crackdown unfair. He pointed out that Toad’s Place recently had a shooting inside the club, and was also cited for serving booze to minors. He said Bambaata Carr, who died after being stabbed 13 times during a brawl inside the downtown Sinergy Club, was his nephew. He suggested police pay more attention to those clubs instead.

“Why they don’t shine the lights on them?”

Livingston raised the question of whether, as a black bar manager, he’s being targeted for the color of his skin. Reddish, who’s also black, dismissed the charge.

Reddish said the tactics he is using to monitor the club closing are the same ones used downtown: Closing side streets, controlling traffic and being a strong presence so clubgoers clear the area and go home.

“If I ran that area [downtown], I would be doing the same thing,” Reddish said. He said he has also cracked down on illegally parked cars outside more upscale joints like L’Orcio and Goodfellas on State Street, on the other side of his district in East Rock.

On the heels of a shootout on Crown Street, cops began cracking down on downtown clubs last fall, in some cases too aggressively.

Reddish said he’s working hard to prevent crime in Newhallville, rather than waiting to react to it.

Keeping the streets cleared of illegally parked cars makes room for emergency vehicles to pull up, if they are ever needed.

“I’m trying to prepare for any worst-case scenario,” he said.

Livingston said he has retained lawyer Ed Marcus to start gathering information and look into the possibility of a lawsuit against the city. (His previous lawyer, Rabbi David Avigdor, is facing legal trouble.) Marcus filed a Freedom of Information request with the city on April 12, and a followup letter to the chief of police on May 3.

The letter contends that New Haven police have “consistently” “interfered with the normal operation of the Taurus Cafe,” by closing off Thompson Street, monitoring the club, and shining “high-beam lights” on the entrance.

“I do not know whether you have personally authorized the above,” Marcus wrote, but he “felt that before this office takes any further action relative to this matter that this letter should be provided to you, to afford you the opportunity to respond.”

Limon said Friday he had not seen the letter, and therefore declined comment through a spokesman.

Meanwhile, Reddish continued to put a bright light on the club over the weekend, and said he plans to continue to do so “as long as I’m allowed to.”

Looking ahead to the summer, he said he’s getting a “head start” on violence around that corner. “I didn’t want to wait until something majorly bad [happens] out there.”

Past stories on the Taurus Cafe:

Mayor Takes Aim At Taurus
Taurus Cafe Owner Found Not Guilty
Taurus Owner Takes The Stand
Taurus Goes On Trial
Taurus Seeks To Rise Again
Newton: Bars Unfairly “Targeted”
State Blocks Taurus Club
Man Shot Near Taurus; Living Room Crashed
Habitat Suspends Plans Near Taurus
Habitat Flees Newhallville Block
City: Threats Intimidate Would-be Taurus Witnesses

City Clamps Down On Truancy, Guns

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Comments

posted by: Ben on May 9, 2011  9:34pm

Thank You for protecting our community LT Reddish.

posted by: JLAW on May 9, 2011  9:42pm

Why is the club in someone else’s name?  Why are you so worried about the police being outside and making the area safe?  Your in a black neighborhood, patrolled by a black cop, so how are you a “black bar owner”  (even though the bar is in not in your name) being targeted because of the color of your skin?  Why would you have to hand pick the cop if you hired one to work the door?  Hmmmmm

posted by: westvillelocal on May 9, 2011  10:39pm

If Livingston does not hold the permit or is the legal owner, what basis does he have to possibly file a lawsuit against the city in regards to Taurus Cafe?

The letter contends that New Haven police have “consistently” “interfered with the normal operation of the Taurus Cafe,” by closing off Thompson Street, monitoring the club, and shining “high-beam lights” on the entrance.

- Again what concern is this to Mr. Livingston as he holds no legal position at the Taurus? Being the Manager only gives you a say in what goes on inside your place of business.

posted by: Westvillelocal on May 10, 2011  2:36am

I do hope Ms. Moye is well compensated for putting her name on this charade for the liquor permit. After all, she will ultimately be responsible when something happens.

posted by: Alex on May 10, 2011  7:42am

NHI, you’re kidding me right?  You’re quoting an “adult” wearing a shirt that says “If you see da police warn-a-brotha?”  That man is truely a staple of the community and a role model.

If your patrons aren’t doing anything wrong, why does it matter if the cops are outside the club???

The residents of that neighborhood deserve peace and quiet and have a right to their quality of life.

Great job NHPD and LT Reddish, keep it up.

posted by: Thompson St. Resident on May 10, 2011  8:09am

As a long time Newhallville resident and a fairly new Thompson St. resident.  I applaud Lt. Reddish for making sure that our streets are safe.  He is absolutely right about the blocking of driveways.  My husband gets off work late and he has come home to see cars blocking our driveway.  We know its someone from the club because it lets out around 2am and soon after that, the cars blocking the driveways are moved.

First of all, I do not feel we should have any bars and/or clubs in a residential neighborhood.  Its one thing if they are downtown in a business district, but the Taurus is in a residential district.  There is noise from the people leaving the club, they are blasting their car stereos, there is yelling and fighting. I have kids that are trying to sleep.  We definitely did not have these problems as much before the club opened up.

No one in Newhalville who cares about crime and drugs should advocate for a liquor store or bar in our neighborhoods. Come on Mr. Livingston, do you really think you are being targeted for no reason? I do not care about what goes on at Toads.  They are in a business district.  You are in our neighborhood and a lot of us do not want you here.  You bring a criminal element to an already crime ridden neighborhood.

We need more officers like Reddish who do more than collect a pay check from the City of New Haven.  He actually takes the time to make sure our streets our safe.  Its a shame that people get criticized for trying to prevent crime.

Mr. Livingston, you say there have been no incidents in your club? Well, that’s because those clubgoers know Lt. Reddish and “his crew” are waiting outside.!!

posted by: Gates on May 10, 2011  8:37am

I wonder how long it will take for Lt. Reddish to be thrown under the bus for this.  The powers that be haven’t had a problem with Reddish’ crackdown of the Taurus before this article.  Let’s see what they say now that the article has come out. Keep it up Lt. Reddish. We know you are one of the few officers out there that care about us.

posted by: Greg on May 10, 2011  8:54am

Larry give it up man. That place is a breeding ground for violence. It always have been. The other sad part about this story is The Rev sitting in the Bar, with that shirt on. Brother make up your mind, either you stand for Christ or you are falling for everything.

posted by: davec on May 10, 2011  9:37am

Taurus:
- The Bull, April 21 to May 21
- 9mm semi-automatic handgun
- late model Ford
Which one is it?

posted by: CBA on May 10, 2011  10:10am

Livingston and his crew are really shoveling the manure,the city should welcome the suit and then counter sue ...

posted by: Funky Chicken on May 10, 2011  10:20am

Thank God we have officers like LT. Reddish. I find it insane that Mr. Livingston is even considering filing a suit against the city. The neighbors in the area should file a suit against the bar and it’s owner for lowering their property values or something of that nature.

posted by: paton on May 10, 2011  10:34am

i went it there for a brief moment(reluctantly) on Saturday and there was cigarette smoking and marijuana smoking—so they need to be raided by police

posted by: Neckbone on May 10, 2011  11:14am

TO THE MAYOR AND CHIEF LIMON:

Do not be threatened by Mr. Livingston’s suit.  Keep Lt. Reddish and his officers out there!!!.  His presence is definitely felt in the neighborhood.  Since Lt. Reddish took over Newhallville, you do not see many drug dealers on street corners. The summer is approaching and I there will be many dangerous hot summers in Newhallville.

Lt. Reddish is a no nonsense officer, who does not turn his back on criminal activity. He does not tell our community leaders and reverends what they want to hear like a few of the NHPD’s finest may do. He has been on the streets, he gets involved and actually tries to do something.

I see so many officers just driving by when those drug dealers are out there. If all of the neighborhoods in New Haven were run by Reddish, the City would definitely be safer.

Newhallvile loves Lt. Reddish!!!!

posted by: cheers on May 10, 2011  11:43am

If in fact this bar attracts the type of people who carry guns or start trouble, I would prefer the club stay open. Otherwise, these folks will probably bring their guns to downtown bars where unarmed people might be hanging out. I would think the police presence would be welcomed by Taurus, it will keep the place safer, which would improve business.  If they could keep the bar open, and also prevent violence from happening there, is there any chance this place couldn’t be an asset to the neighborhood, providing locals a fun, safe place to hang out in the evening?  It could be one of those neighborhood bars where everybody knows your name. And you’re always glad you came.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on May 10, 2011  1:26pm

East Rock has bars on State Street and not only are they not a problem but they are an asset to the community. The problem is not a bar in a residential neighborhood, the problem are the larger factors that lead to violence. Perhaps commercial establishments are more appropriate on Dixwell or Shelton Avenue, but if the larger social and economic issues that cause crime are addressed, I doubt a bar on Winchester would remain a problem.

posted by: Biagio on May 10, 2011  2:00pm

Using iTunes to publicly play music without a special agreement is a violation of the iTunes licensing agreement.  Just saying…

Though he may have a point about being targeted.  Christopher Martin’s ENCOURAGES people to break the zoned parking regs on Clark Street.  In fact, their website (http://www.christophermartins.com/directions.html) offers to pay the parking ticket.  It seems the city decided to turn a blind eye to that one.

posted by: Winchester on May 10, 2011  2:28pm

I’d like to hear more about how he was able to reopen the bar and whether it has anything to do with the new “owner”.  The article mentions the poorly worded zoning ordinances , but how were they able to get past the original tax issues?

posted by: Nurse on May 10, 2011  3:40pm

Maybe Atty. Marcus would like to have The Tauras Cafe move in to his neighborhood!

posted by: Gates on May 10, 2011  3:48pm

To: Jonathan Hopkins

First of all, I do not think you could win your argument that “the problem is not a bar in a residential neighborhood, the problem are the larger factors that lead to violence”, with the residents in the neighborhood that encompasses Prospect St, Loomis Place and St. Ronan Street.  There is no way those residents would want a bar in that area because there are two school and day care centers there.

Those residents would not allow that issue to get very far. The reason there are is not as many socio economic issues in these areas is because there are no bars.  Just look at all of the areas in New Haven that have bars and clubs.  They are all in low income areas.

Why should our children play have to play around bars and strip clubs?

posted by: paton on May 10, 2011  4:53pm

they actually have a DJ on premises

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on May 10, 2011  6:31pm

Gates,
State Street in East Rock has bars and so does the Westville Village, and I wouldn’t characterize Crown Street as “low-income”. Even if we got rid of every bar in the city, that wouldn’t put an end to crime in the city. The reason bars and other commercial establishments aren’t in the Prospect Hill area is because the population density does not support it. I am not a supported of the Taurus Cafe, I just think the problem lies elsewhere. The Taurus Cafe could benefit from a redesign that incorporates large glass windows into the facade and outdoor seating under an awning. Also it would help if the Taurus Cafe were a part of a larger mixed-use corridor that had cafes, groceries, offices, and other retail store fronts on Winchester Avenue that perhaps was geared towards the future residents and workers of the Winchester rehab project. I’m not so sure it’s realistic to want Winchester Avenue to be only a residential street, because it hasn’t been that for about a century.

posted by: Noangel on May 11, 2011  6:15am

So all you people jumping on the bandwagon, I need to pose a question to you. In the 4 years the tarus was closed there have been multiple shootings, stabbings and murders throughout newhallville, so what was the cause then? I lived on Winchester ave and this club being closed didn’t stop the first night I moved in hearing gunshots. So ......? Second with all the murders actually going on in this neighborhood this cop thinks that this is ” minority report” and this is ” pre-crime” I find this laughable because I see this cop sitting out there nightly eating as usual while a block away there are gun wielding drug dealers in plain sight standing on the corner flagging down crackheads right in front of him, but arresting them would require his 200+ frame to actually put the doughnut down and get out of his car. This is a spit in the face to every citizen complaining about the tarus, you target him because he has money and you live in poverty. Which I deal with daily, three weeks ago while dropping my son at the sitters on hazel st a block away my husband and I were pulled over by narcotics detectives, guns were drawn on me and I was treated like a criminal for the simple fact that I drive something that a cop will work way into retirement to come up with the downpayment and they hate it. I escaped the system and they hate it, just as Larry will and they will hate him. The real issue here is that the city of new haven is selling property near science park and want his building and he’s not giving it up, so stop acting like destefano gives a damn, he’s trying to satisfy Yale he could care less about us. Hey Larry see u Thursday! Bright lights and all the real patrons will not be deterred, it’s the outsiders who start trouble and who should be afraid of the supercop.

Ps. I wonder if this cop was sitting in front of the tarus while Mitch cubeb was being gunned down in his home a few blocks away….. U might wanna check that out!

posted by: Thompson st. resident on May 11, 2011  11:24am

Noangel:

Its’ funny that when people try and better their neighborhood by not wanting things like a trashy club, the citizens are in the wrong.  You are for Mr. Livingston who owns a drug infested club, frequented by drug dealers, but then you ccriticize cop for not arresting drug dealers on a corner.  What do you want?

I agree that this club is not the sole reason there is crime in Newhallville, but as a mother you should be concerned that there is an establishment that adds to the crime in the area. You have about 200 high and drunk people leaving a club in a residential area. It’s a matter of time before one of them crashes their car into someone. 

I live on Thompson st., Why would you want that in your neighborhood? Criminal activity has to be addressed one issue at a time and we start that by not adding to an already crime infested neighborhood. I do not care if Mr. Livingston has money, this is a neighborhood where some of us are trying to raise our children correctly.


Secondly, I hope you never need an officer because you are very critical.  Who is this officer you mention in your comments and how do you know he lives in poverty? What are you doing to help the situation in you neighborhood? Seems all your our concerned about is showing off your car and getting your “drink on”. Cops are not the only answer. (It takes a Village). 

As far as your comment about Mitch being gunned down, why don’t you make a suggestion to the Mayor as to how we can have a cop on every corner 24hrs a day. 

You claim that you escaped the system and cops are jealous of your car, well why don’t you take some of the money you have and help your neighborhood and stop insulting those who do not. You may have physically escaped the system, but mentally, you are still leaving within the system.

Instead of you patronizing a drug infested establishment you should be teaching your son and teaching him to stay out of the same places you like to go, like the Taurus. 

I hope there isn’t a drunk driver leaving the Taurus that hits that nice car you worked so hard for. Who would you sue? The same 200+ cop you claim does not get out of his car and allows that person to drive drunk or Mr. Livingston. Hmmm!

posted by: Tracey on May 11, 2011  2:15pm

The decor is awesome and it’s one of the few bars in town with a pool table.  “If you see da police, Warn a Brother.”  Amen!

posted by: Kevlar on May 12, 2011  9:10pm

To exterminate cost good money. That part of the hood actually is coming around. Why open the door and let ...  in a bar of all places? They need a bar over there like someone needs a hole in their head. ...

posted by: Hood Rebel on May 12, 2011  9:21pm

Thank You Lt. Reddish..The cops being there has made a huge difference. The place is cleared and quiet 15 minutes after closing. Taurus needs to be gone. Newhallville would have one less hell hole.

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