Police and the owners of Macumba Latina, 477 River St., agree that around 1:45 a.m. on April 28, a punch was thrown, a man was bloodied and scores of club goers emptied into the street.
But other than that, the two sides painted dramatically different versions of the incident at a Boston Licensing Hearing this morning, called to consider a police citation for "a large fight, patron on patron."
Police said it took large numbers of officers from three different Boston districts and State Police to quell what they said was a fight that kept starting up despite the initial presence of two BPD officers right outside the club.
Through their attorney, owners Max Fernandes and John Lopes said the fight was a small one involving only six or eight men - and but a single punch, that they broke it up quickly and that the "chaos" described by a police sergeant was really caused by the large numbers of cruisers parked on narrow River Street right at closing time.
Police on the scene estimated some 150 people poured into River Street as the fight broke out inside and continued outside and that it took 15 to 20 minutes to clear the street. Sgt. Thomas Kearney of B-3 and Lt. Stephen Meade of the BPD licensing division said officers are now routinely stationed outside the club at closing time due to a series of smaller incidents.
Kearney acknowledged only one arrest, that of a man who, on getting into his car at the MBTA parking lot across the street, refused a police order to turn right onto River rather than left.
Attorney William Rehry said the 150 people were leaving not because of the fight but because it was closing time, the club had turned on the lights and had stopped serving drinks.
Lopes himself said he saw the altercation, that only one punch was thrown, and that he and security guards quickly separated the parties and had the punch thrower stay in the kitchen while the attacked man and his friends were escorted outside.
Even though they do not think they did anything wrong, Fernandes told the licensing board that, as a result of the incident, the club has canceled its "international night" of hip hop, reggae and soca and gone back to its more traditional Latin-music fare. "We don't need this kind of trouble," he said.
He added that since the incident, he has met with police and scheduled a meeting with neighbors to try to see what else the club can do to avoid a repeat. Rehry said that, in the club's nine years in operations, this is the first time it's ever been cited for "a large fight."
Kearney said the club should do a better job of policing crowds at closing time and have workers help direct traffic then.
Lopes said club security - who included one packing a gun - normally do just that, but that on that night, they retreated inside when they saw the large number of cops outside, figuring the police would be handling traffic.
The board decides Thursday what action, if any, to take.