The co-owner of Riverdale Park's Calvert House Inn says town authorities had it wrong Sunday when they fined his business for illegally serving as a dance hall.
"As far as I know, I'm just a restaurant," said Fereydoun Salimi, who's operated Calvert House for 30 years with his wife, Sousan Salimi.
According to Fereydoun, town and county inspectors first visited the restaurant on Thursday, April 26 to notify him that he didn't have a permit to host a disc jockey—something that the restaurant frequently does on weekends.
Salimi said that while he believed a DJ was allowed as background accompaniment for karaoke, he was able to have to have his county-issued certificate of occupancy changed late last week to specifically allow for a DJ.
When he approached the Riverdale Park officials again, Salimi said, he was told that Calvert House was still presenting itself as a dance hall without the permission of the town.
Riverdale Park Police Capt. Patrick Timmons told Patch that the Salimis hadn't obtained the proper permits required for a "music event," which includes a DJ/dancing arrangement.
"Regardless of any permits that they get from the county … they have to come before the town council," Timmons said.
After reviewing the official definition of a dance hall, Salimi said he didn't think that Calvert House qualified, in part because it does not have a designated space for dancing.
Broadly speaking, the town defines a dance hall as a "any establishment operated for profit where dancing is permitted, even though dancing may not be the principal activity at the establishment." (See below for full parameters.)
"People sometimes get up, and we ask them very politely, 'Please do not get up and dance,'" Salimi said. "I never, ever in my life took any short cuts. I do respect the law."
When officers visited Calvert House on Sunday night, Timmons said, they found a DJ was still performing at the restaurant. Police instructed Salimi to shut off the music, issued him a $1,000 fine, and posted a notice of the citation on the front of the restaurant.
"For two days, we didn't do any business," Salimi said. The notice was later removed, but Salimi said he would contest the fine in court on May 29.
Timmons said that the department had received noise complaints about Calvert House from nearby businesses before officers arrived on Sunday. That criticism was echoed by several neighbors on the Riverdale Park TownTalk alias, who reported hearing loud music late at the night in the past.
But others—Salimi included—questioned whether he was being unfairly singled out as a local business owner.
"After 30 years, you just come and shut me down in this economy?" Salimi asked.
Salimi also suggested that someone—possibly an ex-employee or ex-tenant—might be targeting him, noting that his tires had been slashed and a rock thrown at the restaurant in recent months.
"I'm a proud citizen, and I love what I'm doing," Salimi said. "My whole community has been proud of us. I always respect the law [and] respect the police officers. I just want to do my business and want the city to be behind me."
Definition of a dance hall
Chapter 25 of the Code of the Town of Riverdale Park states:
(B) As used in this chapter, "dance hall" means any establishment operated for profit where dancing is permitted, even though dancing may not be the principal activity at the establishment. Activities that indicate that an establishment is a dance hall may include, but not be limited to, the following:
- (1) The presence of one or more individuals who provide live or recorded music, and a dance floor, stage, or other area or space in the establishment is available for dancing.
- (2) The presence of one or more individuals who provide live or recorded music and dancing is occurring.
- (3) The establishment engages in activities to promote or advertise dancing at the establishment.