What Rihanna Hath Wrought: Deconstructing the NYPD’s Shutdown of Nightclub W.i.P.

The cops and the politicos are going after clubs and bottle service. It only took some scary, famous rap guys to start fighting, first.

w i p What Rihanna Hath Wrought: Deconstructing the NYPDs Shutdown of Nightclub W.i.P. So, what’s it take for a club to get shut down by the NYPD these days? Among other things, we now know a highly publicized fight between a rapper (Drake) and a scandalized R & B singer (Chris Brown) over one of the most popular pop stars on the planet (Rihanna) might do the trick, as the site of their now-famous brawl W.i.P. has now been shut down by New York’s Finest.

Of course, the police department won’t say they shut down the club where the R & B brouhaha occurred—W.i.P. (or “Work In Progress”)—explicitly because of the fight, but the reasons remain undisclosed by the department and unclear to anyone who will talk:

The department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said in a statement that W.i.P., as well as a club above it, Greenhouse, was “closed as a result of several violations in a stipulation agreement that was made by the owners and the N.Y.P.D.” A sergeant in the police press office said on Sunday that he was unaware of what those violations were or of the details of the earlier stipulation agreement.

Emphasis ours. They also, for what it’s worth, arrested the club’s manager for “outstanding warrants.” Like the NYPD’s shutdown of the club, none of the violations the club’s manager was arrested for were made clear. In fact, the only public, civic action explicitly tied to the club’s fight that’s been made public?

A politician’s pithy attempt to capitalize on it:

City Council Speak Christine Quinn released a statement today announcing an emergency meeting between her office, the NYPD and the Nightlife Association. “I am deeply concerned by reports of the bottle throwing melee that injured more than five people in SoHo this week,” Quinn said. The speaker said she wanted “to send a clear message to all nightclub patrons that bottles cannot be used as weapons and to determine if the guidelines surrounding bottle service need to be updated or reworked.”

It may be worth noting that the three main characters in this fight aren’t white. Why?

They stand in stark opposition to those involved in the fight at Meatpacking District club Double Seven just four months ago that involved (of course) attractive women, and the belligerent chest-beating drunks courting them, who got into fights attempting to win their hands. The stars of that one were a prince of Monaco (who also happens to be Grace Kelley’s grandson), a nightlife owner, Paris Hilton’s ex-boyfriend, a bunch of models, and some moneyed downtown hipsters, all slugging away at each other.

Like the W.i.P. fight, people landed in the hospital, a jaw was broken, and (of course) bottle service was involved.

But unlike the W.i.P. fight, Double Service remains in operation today, and no manager was arrested.

Furthermore, it didn’t inspire any calls to action by New York’s political class. It was brilliant local tabloid fodder, but unlike the Drake and Chris Brown fight, didn’t quite make the national papers. To be fair, it’s not like the NYPD or Christine Quinn didn’t have any reason to look into W.i.P. prior to this.* It’s just surprising that they didn’t, at least given the lesser threshold required.

After all, W.i.P.’s creative director Stuart Braunstein quit not three weeks ago after the suicide of artist Adam Grant, prior to which, his work—a $40,000 sculpture on display for viewing in the club—was destroyed, and the club was uninsured for such a thing. W.i.P. was given clearance by the local community board to open in part to its dedication to the idea of itself as a gallery. So why wouldn’t they be insured like one? And how was that never looked into? Of course, when confronted with a report on Braunstein’s departure from the club, W.i.P. fired back that Braunstein was (as sources told BlackBook) involved in a physical altercation with a female employee, something that (if true) never caught the attention of any city officials, either.

It might be worth mentioning here that Greenhouse—the club above W.i.P. which shares a building and some ownership—was the site of a fatal shooting in 2010, which makes that time they were accused of a racist door policy look like a small nitpick. Barry Mullineaux—an owner of W.i.P.— previously had his massively popular Chelsea nightclub Stereo shut down for good after a shooting in 2008.

To recap:

Shootings, accusations of a racist door policy, destroyed art, and accusations of management/employee physical altercations couldn’t raise any serious red flags, cause a club to close (let alone act as serious impediments to one opening), or yield the attention of a local politico. A fight resembling the one at W.i.P.—except with all caucasian men, who didn’t happen to be pop stars—didn’t result in a club’s subsequent NYPD-assisted closure, or get a City Councilwoman to climb atop a soapbox.

But after all of that, one fight between two pop stars over another one—none of whom were white—did. And now we know!

fkamer@observer.com | @weareyourfek

[*In the interest of full disclosure, we should maybe mention the fact that the New York Observer had their holiday party this year. To the best of this writer's knowledge, amazingly, no bottles were thrown.]