The ghost of notorious nightlife king Peter Gatien is still haunting the site of his old Limelight club — a war has erupted between a new hot spot and angry neighbors who say patrons are partying there like its 1989.
Manhattan’s Community Board 5 is going after the Jue Lan Club, a Chinese restaurant which members accuse of hosting rowdy guests and DJs who rattle the stained-glass windows of the deconsecrated church on Sixth Avenue.
However, Naiome Ram, who opened the eatery in December 2015, claims she is the victim of a “witch hunt.”
She says her eatery has been “stigmatized” through unfair association with the Limelight, which decades earlier hosted notorious drug parties and evaded taxes under Gatien’s control.
“When we took the place, people said it was cursed because it used to be a church — but Community Board 5 is the real curse,” said Ram, a former banker. “There’s so much beauty and history in the building, but businesses who’ve taken the space here have failed because CB5 makes it so difficult to succeed.”
Ram claims Jue Lan Club has also become the target of “blatant racism” by community board members, who allegedly told her they find the eatery’s star-studded minority clientele “undesirable.”
The restaurant is popular with many pro basketball stars, including Carmelo Anthony and James Harden, and hip-hop icons like Sean “Diddy” Combs and Nas.
She also said “everything bad that happens in this neighborhood is automatically projected onto us because of the Limelight and the history of this building.”
For instance, she claims, drunken patrons from the gay sports bar Boxers and The VIP Club strip joint, both located a few doors down, routinely get into fights and urinate outside Jue Lan Club, located at Sixth Avenue and West 20th Street.
She says she’s even caught some having “wild sex” along Jue Lan’s outdoor patio area in the early morning hours after the restaurant has closed.
But her complaints to the community board and other officials have fallen on deaf ears. Instead, Jue Lan Club gets blamed for such incidents.
Under Gatien, the club operated as one of New York’s most notorious dance and drug palaces during its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s. By the late 90s, the club had been targeted and occasionally shuttered by officials, and it changed its name to Club Alvalon in the 2000’s before its closing in 2007.
Since then, sections have been reborn as a marketplace and a series of failed restaurants prior to Jue Lan Club.
The 275-seat, two-floor eatery, at Sixth Avenue and 20th Street which dishes out $70 servings of Peking Duck and is named after a 1930s-era art society in Shanghai, operates out of a former chapel area dubbed the “Shampoo Room.” During the Limelight years, it was the scene of wild “foam parties” for club kids.
In November, the community board tried to shut Jue Lan Club down by passing a strongly-worded resolution asking the state Liquor Authority not to renew the eatery’s liquor license another two years. The board said ownership failed to make good on its original promise to “exclusively” offer “quiet fine dining” and prohibit on-site dancing, bottle service and DJs blasting loud music.
The SLA snubbed the recommendation and renewed the license anyway.
Ram admits there is “some dancing” during a “popular Sunday brunch” she throws weekly, but claims the music isn’t blasted beyond legal noise limits. Community Board 5 declined to comment.
Originally the Church of the Holy Communion from 1852 to 1976, the landmarked site was supposed to be converted into a drug rehabilitation center but sold to Gatien in 1982 after sitting vacant for seven years.