Frankford ‘speakeasy’ shutdown, plans to license and reopen

A Frankford resident, who says she didn’t know her after-hours social club was breaking various city ordinances, took on a barrage of questions and criticisms from the Frankford Civic Association board, its members and others in attendance at Thursday night’s meeting.

In the fall, flyers were circulating Frankford promoting a private club with liquor, underage patrons and a cover charge on the third floor of 4651 Frankford Avenue, admits Roselyn González, who says she has since taken responsibility, authority and leadership of the haphazard club. But that has all changed, she says.

Neighbors frequently complained of noise in the early morning hours and, on some weekend nights, more than 50 cars were in the immediate vicinity of the avenue, which is usually fairly desolate that late at night, says West Frankford Town Watch President Mike Mawson.

González, 42, was on the hot seat for 20 minutes, responding to questions from at least six different people, some of whom were speaking at the same time. In the end, board members thanked her for coming and joked with González about the pressure they put on her.

Three months ago, any public promotion of the club was halted, she says. One month ago, the cover charge was dropped in lieu of a members-only policy, she says. Last week, a licensed security firm was hired, she says. Now, the entire operation is closed until she can file all necessary paperwork, apply for official private club status, obtain a liquor license and other steps, she says.

“We have a special interest for a lifetime in this community,” she says. “We really want to hear how to help.”

Jason Dawkins, a representative of City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez’s office says González is working with his office to gain legal status for the private club.

“That’s important because you could be operating a speakeasy otherwise,” said Beth Grossman, the chief of the Philadelphia District Attorney office’s Public Nuisance Task Force, who was sitting in on the civic meeting.

González, who says she is leasing the space from the building’s owners, portrayed a private club of roughly 35 members, most of whom were bar owners from Kensington and Frankford. The members, she says, are interested in the improvement of their neighborhoods and so are involved in food drives and other donation work with nearby organizations. Because the members are mostly bar owners, the club wasn’t opening in the past and won’t likely open in the future until 2 a.m. and may close around 4 a.m.

“How is this any different than the Art Holiday?” asked Treasurer Tim Wisniewski, referring to an underground club that was shut down after a teenager was shot outside the former theater on Kensington Avenue near Frankford Avenue.

González pledged responsibility in her club’s future iteration. She apologized for the past noise violations, pledged to better sound proof the facility and noted the other improvements, like improved security protocol and a new-found understanding of the process she needs to follow.

The project will require a zoning variance before it opens, so González promised to return with any zoning matters to a future civic meeting to be openly discussed.

Also at the meeting, voting for a new Frankford Civic Association board for 2011 was held, as the Frankford Gazette reports. Brian Wisniewski was made President, replacing Frances Clay, who died before Christmas. Alice Henry was named Vice President, Rose Zimmermann was named Secretary, Tim Wisniewski will retain his role as Treasurer, as will Pete Specos as Zoning officer, and joined by at-large members Al Rose, Al Mitchell, Margie Rivera and Steve McClintock.

Later at the meeting, Mawson listed two other trouble properties, 4708 Darrah Street and 1335 Sellers Street [Youtube Video].

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.