When deputies from the New York City Sheriff’s Office broke into a Bronx warehouse late on Saturday, they say they found more than 200 people packed inside, many without masks. Purple and red neon lights bathed empty plastic cups and food containers on the floor.
And in the center of the room, behind metal barriers, men in boxing gloves threw jabs at each other. A video posted to social media shows the mostly unmasked crowd cheering as two fighters chase each other in the ring.
The gathering, which police said exceeded the limit of nonessential social gatherings limited to 10 people and also violated unrelated coronavirus regulations, was an underground fight club called “Rumble in the Bronx,” authorities told Gothamist.
Ten event organizers, including the leader of the club, Michael J. Roman, 32, were charged with unlawful assembly, health and alcohol violations and participating in a prohibited combative sport, police told Gothamist. They each face a fine of $15,000, the local site reported.
Even as coronavirus cases rise in New York and authorities urge residents to limit social events, the fight club was one of at least three large indoor gatherings featuring hundreds of attendees crowded closely together busted in the city over the weekend.
In the past week, the state’s percentage of new daily reported cases rose by about 50 percent. The percentage of new deaths and covid-19-related hospitalizations also rose by 40% and 32.2%, respectively, in the past week, according to The Washington Post’s coronavirus tracker. Just this week, more than 3,000 new cases were reported statewide every day, prompting officials to implement new virus restrictions in an effort to avoid what they fear could be the start of a second wave.
Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, announced new restrictions, including shuttering bars, restaurants, and gyms at 10 p.m., and limiting indoor gatherings to groups of 10 people or less. The new rules he said, were a result of a rise of new cases that began at small indoor gatherings, including recent Halloween parties.
“If you look at where the cases are coming from, if you do the contact tracing, you’ll see they’re coming from three main areas: establishments where alcohol is served, gyms, and indoor gatherings at private homes,” Cuomo said.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, D, also warned last week that the city was “dangerously close” to a second wave and that he would consider new restrictions if infections continue rising.
Despite those pleas, police said they broke up numerous large gatherings on Saturday when more than 500 people disregarded the new measures and packed various indoor party venues.
The fight club, police said, not only violated the city’s new emergency coronavirus orders but the event organizers also failed to operate with a proper liquor license and a permit for this type of event.
Rumble in the Bronx, the unlicensed fight club, is an underground group designed so parties who have unsettled disputes can take their anger to the ring, instead of exteriorizing it in the streets with guns, Roman, its founder, who goes by Killa Mike, told the Undefeated in 2018. For Roman, the club is “a place to kill beef and release aggressions.”
By the time the fight was shut down late Saturday, authorities said they had recovered two loaded firearms from the warehouse.
“Patrons were also observed drinking alcohol, smoking, hookah, and not wearing face coverings while failing to social distance,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement provided to NBC New York.
Hours before the Bronx underground fight club event, authorities said they found a similar scene at an “illegal bottle club” party in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan that began late Friday evening and stretched into Saturday morning. At 1 a.m. Saturday, sheriff’s deputies said they found more than 200 people shoulder-to-shoulder inside the Rogue Space, an art studio. Unlike the fight club, photos shared by the agency on Twitter showed many attendees wearing face coverings.
“We’re about being a positive influence in the community, and this is not something I’m proud of at all,” Kevin O’Hanlon, owner of Rogue Space, which hosted the Chelsea event, told The New York Times.
O’Hanlon did not immediately reply to The Post as of early Monday morning.
New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito told Gothamist that his deputies first spotted event organizers with Boom VIP Events unloading chairs, tables and velvet rope used for crowd control before they went into the location where people were smoking hookah and drinking alcohol.
Four organizers were charged with multiple misdemeanors, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
But the early morning was not over yet.
At 3:15 a.m. Saturday, authorities broke up a rave in Brooklyn where more than 185 people disregarded the state’s emergency orders, police said. Authorities said they charged three event organizers with multiple misdemeanors for failing to have a liquor license, among other violations.
Fucito told Gothamist that attendees at this party were also “consuming alcohol and smoking hookah,” and most did not wear a face covering or maintain social distancing.