Schenectady

Owner of shuttered Schenectady social club hopes to get city permit and reopen

PETER R. BARBER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Crystal Jones stands in the main room of her social club at 1643 Eastern Parkway Saturday, November 14, 2020.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

PETER R. BARBER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Crystal Jones stands in the main room of her social club at 1643 Eastern Parkway Saturday, November 14, 2020.

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, Business, Schenectady County

SCHENECTADY — The owner of a private social club on Eastern Parkway that has drawn some complaints hopes to work out issues with the city and reopen, after the city’s code department shut it down Friday for operating without proper approvals under the city’s zoning code.

“I have a meeting with [the] mayor on Monday, I want to provide him with details of what we are doing here, and then I will go to codes,” said Crystal Jones, who owns Crystal’s Events and Symposium Club, which rents space in a strip mall that is anchored by a Family Dollar store.

Jones opened the business across the street from the Eastern Parkway Market 32 in August, hosting events such as baby showers, birthday parties and similar social gatherings. Having created a limited liability corporation, gotten a state tax registration number and rented the 5,000-square-foot space, she said she was unaware until late September that she needed a separate city approval for the location.

There have been complaints from the neighborhood posted on social media about large groups gathering there late at night, and on Friday, a city notice was placed on the door saying it couldn’t operate until zoning issues were addressed.

This weekend, a mobile pole-mounted police camera is aimed at the business from across the street.

While groups of people gathering there given the current COVID situation is one of the concerns, a resident leader who spoke on condition of background said neighbors were also apprehensive about the business operating without the proper city approvals.

Jones said that while groups at the establishment may appear large, she has not exceeded the 50 people allowed at any indoor gathering under the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Since learning she needed city approval, Jones said she had been trying to work with city zoning officials to clarify that her business isn’t a banquet hall — which would be in violation of the area’s zoning — but a social club, where events are held. It could not be determined Saturday whether a private social club would comply with zoning.

“I’m thinking I’m in compliance, and now there are issues,” she said.

Jones said she will be meeting with Mayor Gary McCarthy on Monday. McCarthy did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

Attention from the codes department and police may be be tied to a shots-fired incident last Sunday, Nov. 8, in which about 10 shots were fired from a vehicle in the street just after 6 p.m., less than an hour after a late-afternoon brunch at the business broke up. Nobody was injured, though police said a parked vehicle was struck; no arrests have been made.

While police came inside and questioned her and others present, Jones said the incident was unrelated to the business. “We had a private event, and we heard gunshots,” she said. “Everyone went outside. The officers came in and they were grilling us about what happened.”

Jones acknowledged some of the events she has hosted have been late at night, but said she follows COVID restrictions limiting the number of people inside to 50, and requiring masks for entry and when moving around inside. She employs security and uses a metal detector a “wand” to check guests for weapons, she said.

Jones noted that she owns a home only three blocks away, and as a Black-owned business, she believes what she is doing helps bring pride to the surrounding community.

“I’m still thinking that I’m bringing something positive to the community,” Jones said. “I’m someone who really wants to improve the condition of Schenectady.”

Schenectady County Public Health Services is also looking at the business, since it does restaurant/dining hall health code inspections. Jones said that while food is served at some of the events she holds, it is not being prepared on site.

The Times Union first reported on the city’s action against the business.

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