Under pulsing neon lights at last week, a few onlookers sipping drinks watched men expertly lead their partners to salsa and meringue music. On the tented patio, groups of young locals smoked cigarettes, letting off mid-week work steam.
At first glance, the canal-side club doesn’t appear to live up to its crime-and-drug haven reputation: beefy security personnel pat down each party-goer before letting them in, and scour women's bags for drugs and weapons. But, over this summer – the first busy season since the – Dream has been under the close scrutiny of the Southampton Town Police, generating continued reports of , and .
Owner Frank Vlahadamis, who wears a tape recorder on a lanyard around his neck, hidden under his shirt, said police are retaliating against a federal lawsuit he filed over three years ago, claiming that the town targeted him because he catered to the Hispanic community at the , which he also owns. Over a year ago, the town tried to dismiss the civil rights suit, but no decision has been made yet, said Andrew Campanelli, Vlahadamis’ Mineola-based attorney.
When Southampton Town Police assumed the top role in the spring, Vlahadamis reached out to him to work together on making Dream safer, but, he never heard back, he said. Wilson said he received the message, and spoke to Vlahadamis’ attorney, but could not meet with him because of the ongoing litigation.
Wilson also said police activity at Dream is not retaliation.
“Every liquor license is held to the same standard town-wide,” Wilson said.
Vlahadamis admits there are limits to eliminating crime and violence at the club, and Campanelli said there was nothing that any club owner could have done to prevent Carlo Petrusa’s death.
“How can I address this?” Vlahadamis said. “Why don’t the police arrest them before they come here?”
, another popular, longstanding Hampton Bays club (known as Tiana Jazz in the 1960s) with , takes a different approach to the continued police presence.
“We work hand-in-hand with the police,” said Vincent Maggio, the club owner.
His club usually attracts at least one squad car as soon as it opens between noon and 1 p.m. on Saturday. Wilson said the police attention there is important because of the nearby public bathing beaches, and others along Dune Road.
Maggio ensures his staff are Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) certified, a qualification that helps bartenders spot overly intoxicated partiers or those on drugs. Brian of Port Jefferson, a bartender at Neptune for two years who declined to give his last name, said that he does not serve event-goers after seeing them visibly highly intoxicated.
“I don’t want to get tossed in hot water,” he said, adding he could be liable if someone leaves severely intoxicated.
Maggio said he also has as many as 30 security personnel for big events and on holiday weekends, a number he said is proportionate to the crowds of up to 1,500 that his business generates.