Suspicion of Prejudice Circles Bangkok Shutdown

Sparked by multiple noise complaints and disturbance calls, the New Paltz Police Department (NPPD) uncovered that New Paltz restaurant and nightlife hotspot Bangkok Cafe had been operating as a late-hour nightlife location without proper licensing. 

Police received a 911 call on Oct. 21 at 2:49 a.m. regarding a fight that occurred in the Chase Bank parking lot. Police were simultaneously receiving calls for other complaints due to noise, according to NPPD Chief Joe Snyder.

Upon breaking up the fight, officers asked those involved which bar they had come from in town. After telling the police they had just left Bangkok’s Black and Latino Night, officers proceeded to shut down the entire bar for the night.

The owner of the restaurant was attempting to get people to leave even before the police had been called. The owner believed he was permitted to be open as late as 2 a.m. However, according to Snyder, restaurants are only authorized to be open until 12 a.m. In his struggle to encourage party goers to leave, the owner had, according to Snyder, caused a congestion of people in the street and in front of Bangkok Cafe. 

In wake of the police involvement in shutting down the party, suspicion of discrimination began to sprout in the minds of many New Paltz residents. Bangkok Cafe hosts many parties and events for intersectional groups in the community, including POC events and The Kings and Queens of New Paltz.

Well-known members of The Kings and Queens of New Paltz, Club Founder Victoria Precise and Valkyrie Hail had been considering moving their highly attended shows to Oasis even before this occurrence.

“We always have to turn people away or have them wait in line outside to get into our drag shows at certain points,” said Precise. “We love Bangkok Cafe, but we may be moving our bigger shows to Oasis, while our smaller, dinner show-style events will remain at Bangkok.”

According to New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers and Snyder, the Village Building and Zoning Department is willing to work with the restaurant to change their zoning status. According to Snyder and Rogers, once this is done, Bangkok may operate at later hours of the night, like other New Paltz bars.

“This is not the first time a restaurant has stayed open past midnight when they were not supposed to,” Rogers said. “Nightlife is enjoyed by a variety of people, that’s what people love about New Paltz.”

Hail and Precise had originally been frustrated with the police department, due to their suspicion of discriminatory action against marginalized groups that often hold events at Bangkok. 

“I have confidence that Chief Snyder will always do things for the right reasons and would never make decisions that would discriminate against any particular group,” Rogers said. “From what I understand there was an altercation that needed to be diffused, and that is why the cops arrived at Bangkok.”

When asked about talks of prejudice and racial profiling in regards to police action, Snyder said the situation “had nothing to do with that.”

Hail explained that although she is happy to hear that Bangkok can stay open at later hours once they receive the correct license, she would still be interested to hear a longer response from Snyder concerning the suspected prejudice on the police department’s part. 

Writing on the bathroom wall of local coffee shop Cafeteria illustrates public outrage in wake of shutdown.

“I’m also curious to see what the chief’s comments on the discriminatory issues are,” Precise said. “But now that the solution is simple and we are all on the same page, there is nothing else to do in pursuing with this matter other than encouraging Bangkok to gain the correct licensing.”