A contingent of about 40 state police, L&I agents and officers from Philadelphia’s Third District entered Vesuvio, a bar and restaurant at 736 S. Eighth St., around 12:20 a.m. July 25 and summarily shut down the bar for the weekend after finding permit and other violations.
Tracy Buchholz, organizer of The Scene, scrambled to notify guests that the party, which was supposed to start at Vesuvio at 9 that night, was off, spending until 3 a.m. trying to notify party supporters.
“The hardest part to swallow is the reputation aspect; it’s my reputation alongside the party when we have to cancel it that late in the game,” Buchholz said. “I know people showed up on Saturday, which is frustrating because I don’t want anyone wasting their time.”
Vesuvio has hosted the monthly party since its launch in January, but Buchholz said that following the raid she secured a new venue — Adobe Café, 1919 E. Passyunk Ave. in South Philadelphia — which will host Scene on Aug. 22.
“Vesuvio was a great place to start the party, but it never quite felt like home,” Buchholz said. “I’m trying to find a place to build a lengthy relationship with, and I think Adobe fits more of the vibe I’m looking for.”
Jerry D’Addesi, who co-owns Vesuvio with his brother Michael, said none of the investigating agents mentioned The Scene party during the raid, and that he suspects the timing may have been a coincidence — an unfortunate one, as the event was one of the restaurant’s most popular.
Dominic Verdi, L&I deputy commissioner, told PGN this week that the raid was motivated by “general complaints about noise and other issues.”
D’Addesi said Verdi told him, however, the raid was not precipitated by any specific complaints.
“That night Dominic told me that this is not a targeted situation,” D’Addesi said. “He said it was random and that they’d gone through 299 bars since April as part of Mayor Nutter’s new enforcement activity and not because anyone called or complained at all.”
There were up to 175 customers in the building at the time of the raid, and D’Addesi said some later complained that the agents were “very aggressive.”
Verdi said the investigation did result in four underage-drinking citations, although Vesuvio did not face any fines.
D’Addesi said Vesuvio had an individual stationed at its front door checking identification cards, and who said the four underagers all produced IDs that appeared legitimate.
Verdi said the L&I investigation also netted one fire-code violation — a missing tag from a fire extinguisher — and identified problems with Vesuvio’s zoning permit.
“Neighbors allowed the place to open with a zoning permit that allows it to be a restaurant and a bar,” he said. “But since then, they’ve basically taken the second floor and made it a wide-open space for entertainment. The permit only allows entertainment for up to 25 percent of the place.”
The L&I’s Special Assembly license is required in numerous situations, such as when a corner bar with a lawful occupancy of more than 50 has a disc jockey, stage, dance floor or performers; The Scene featured several DJs and typically drew up to 400 people.
D’Addesi said he was unaware of the entertainment stipulation in the permit, but that he’s in the process of obtaining the correct license.
D’Addesi said Vesuvio reopened within 24 business hours.
Co-owner Michael D’Addesi said Vesuvio is planning to launch Hotties for Happy Hour, an all-girl event created by Ashley Davidson, every Wednesday from 6-9 p.m. at the bar.
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.