Latino bar owners allege police harassment, discrimination
A group of bar owners in Ossining allege they are being targeted by police because they are Latino.
The owners of Sirenita Lounge, Atlantic Bar, El Manabita Sports Restaurant and La Isla Tesoro Bar Restaurant filed a federal lawsuit against the Village of Ossining, its police department, and the department’s chief.
Sirenta Lounge owner Amauris Collado told News 12 that since August, Ossining police have been doing random "premise checks" at his Latino-serving establishment multiple times a night every weekend issuing minor violations for occupancy, noise and dancing.
He said the checks are so frequent, it's driving away business because many Latinos fear the police because of their legal status.
"If I have 30, 40 people, they leave right away because they are feeling scared,” he said.
Mounting violations led to Sirenita’s liquor license being revoked.
Atlantic Bar owner Carlos Espinal questioned why police are doing so many premise checks.
"They go to check the bar for no reason, no phone calls 911 - nothing like that,” he said.
Attorney Louis Chisari filed the federal lawsuit and said these searches are illegal and unwarranted.
He said they violate the bar owners’ civil rights.
"They’re harassing them basically because they’re Spanish or from Central America or Latin America,” said Chisari.
Officials with the Village of Ossining and the village’s police chief said they can’t comment on the pending litigation, but Chief Kevin Sylvester said his department investigates complaints by residents.
"Our department has always stood for fair and impartial policing; we believe in promoting good businesses at the same time ensuring all of our neighbors are entitled to a fair quality of life,” he said.
Chief Sylvester added he's worked to develop a good relationship with the Hispanic community.
"We've done a tremendous amount of outreach,” he said.
Sirenita Lounge has been granted permission from a judge to remain open temporarily and serve liquor as they challenge the violations that lead to their liquor license being revoked.