Monkey Bar regains liquor license

By Shelby Ashline

Delia Barth/Daily Collegian

The Monkey Bar and Grill, a local restaurant and bar located on North Pleasant Street, regained its liquor license on Oct. 1 after a month-long suspension.

The suspension was the result of a “license violation,” according to general manager Rasif Rafiq, who declined to say more on the violation.

During the 30-day suspension, which was effective throughout the whole month of September, the location did not close. Instead, business focused around Bistro 63, the restaurant portion of the establishment.

“Most … places usually close when they lose their liquor license,” said Rafiq, who has worked at The Monkey Bar for five years in various positions. “We did not close because we have a restaurant, a very successful restaurant, and that is the basis of this business.

“While the month of September was difficult for us, (because) we didn’t have the club nights … we did stay open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, serving dinner to our loyal customers,” Rafiq continued. “We had a lot of support during this time.”

Rafiq also said that it’s not an uncommon occurrence for a bar to temporarily lose its liquor license, especially being in a college town.

The Monkey Bar has had four “prior incidents” since its opening in October 1999, according to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. Records indicate the bar has previously experienced liquor license suspensions, each for varying periods of time.

Prior to the most recent incident, the last suspension on record that was issued by the Commission began Oct. 5, 2011, and lasted for 12 days. This occurred after two 20-year-old women gained access to the bar using fake identification on April 7, 2011.

Another suspension, which began April 20, 2011, held for nine days and was the result of a similar incident on Dec. 3, 2010, when three 20-year-old women gained access to the bar using fake IDs.

According to Rafiq, The Monkey Bar has been implementing changes that will improve its security during club nights, which begin after 10 p.m.

According to Rafiq, there is a new ID detection machine which has the ability to detect fake IDs. New infrared camera systems have also been installed.

“We’ve really invested in equipment,” Rafiq said. “We try to have eyes and ears everywhere.”

Rafiq has also employed “double the amount of security,” which equates to seven or eight people watching the numerous entrances.

“Usually we’d have a bouncer checking IDs, (but) now myself or the owner (Mauro Aniello) … are at the door every single night,” he said.

On Oct. 1, when the bar was reopened, The Monkey Bar employed a “Booze for Boobs” theme as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The bar donated a portion of its revenue from the night to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The bar is planning another themed night, called the First Annual Midnight Masquerade, for the evening of Nov. 7. Customers will receive masks at the door to wear until midnight.

The Monkey Bar and Grill also “really (tries) to engage the (University of Massachusetts) community,” Rafiq said. The bar uses student promoters to spread the word about upcoming club events and sponsors some of the UMass sports teams. The bar also accepts UCard Debit.

Rafiq estimates that approximately 80 percent of The Monkey Bar’s total business is made up of UMass students and faculty.

UMass students and faculty also occasionally hold private events at The Monkey Bar, where a 131-inch screen television is available for use in presentations, according to the business’s website. A large banquet room is also used for a variety of events, including small weddings and birthday and holiday parties.

Rafiq hopes that the business will continue to grow now that both the bar and restaurant portions are operating again.

“We’re going to be bigger than ever, not only in terms of the restaurant, but in terms of the club as well,” he said. “In the future … I would like (The Monkey Bar) to be open until 1 a.m. seven nights a week.”

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected]