It was Pride Weekend and Jacob Chen was just another of the thousands of people waiting to get into “Alegria Pride 2023,” where presale tickets had gone for at least $120 each and some went as high as $280. Taking place inside the enormous colosseum-like Brooklyn Mirage in East Williamsburg, it was “the most anticipated NYC outdoor event,” according to the production company’s website. Run by party promoter Ric Sena — described recently as a “legendary circuit party producer” by Paper magazine — it was the event’s third year inside the Mirage, a cavernous former steel fabrication shop that an Austrian EDM promoter named Billy Bildstein has been inspired to make work as a “prehistorical amphitheater” based on a Wu-Tang Clan music video.

But Chen says trouble found him before he even entered the club’s doors. He would later detail these as “unwarranted and intrusive sexual assault by the security guards” that the Mirage had hired for the evening. What the Brooklyn Mirage might not have reckoned with, perhaps, was that Chen, among the estimated 7,500 people filling the enormous club, was a lawyer at a small New York firm called DGW Kramer. He had represented, for instance, the likes of real estate developers, Chinese textiles firms and Chinese construction companies, according to the firm. In the months since June’s Alegria Pride event, Chen has been busy collecting stories and making notable filings in Brooklyn state court. 

“Many attendees were touched repeatedly, sometimes without consent and sometimes despite specifically refusing to consent, in their intimate areas, forced to spread their legs for extensive periods of time, and made to take off their pants and underwear, bare themselves, and show their genitals and buttocks to the security and anyone else nearby,” Chen writes. 

Problems didn’t stop outside the Mirage’s doors, according to the claims.

“Even inside the venue, attendees were subject to the continued abuse and mistreatment of security for instance when using bathroom stalls. Security guards were constantly jumping above the wall, or bending over to take a look inside stalls, peeking at the gap at the door, and banging on doors whenever attendees attempted to use the stalls,” the suit says.

And like the old joke goes, the show didn’t even last long enough. According to the lawsuit Chen filed “the event ended nearly two hours before it was expected.”

Conservatively estimating that this happened to everybody, Chen is suing for a payout of $1,000 for everyone who attended June’s show. This would come to “not less than $7.5 million,” he claims. 

Reached by phone, Chen made no bones about it.

“Avant Gardner has made a lot of money from the gays,” he told me. Chen knows something about this world, in addition to identifying as part of the community himself. Per his firm, he is a co-chair of the National LGBT Bar Association’s LGBT Network, and he tells me that he’s a regular at spots like the House of Yes and 3 Dollar Bill. And, of course, Brooklyn Mirage.  

“They have made a lot of money off the LGBTQ community and the community is pretty outraged,” he tells me.

Stories had come to Chen “through the grapevine,” he says. Two months ago, a since-suspended reddit account started gathering some of these on a subreddit dedicated to the city’s rave scene. Chen’s latest filing in the courts has gathered eleven attendees so far who have signed up to back the case.   

It’s just the latest trouble for the club, which has booked acts as big tent and loud as Deadmou5 as recently as last weekend. Following a Zeds Dead show a week earlier, a well-connected attendee was found floating near the Grand Street Bridge. 

“The venue, right now, is on very thin ice with the city,” grumbles a nightlife insider, reached by phone and speaking anonymously of a club that has come to literally tower over the city’s club scene. 

“The reputation is not great. It’s very hard to manage a venue of that size,” he adds. Per a report in Gothamist earlier this year, the club has an equally poor relationship with the New York State Liquor Authority, which has problems with the “hundreds of people who had been treated for intoxication and drug use at Avant Gardner.”

Feelings toward the club are that it’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. Too large to actually stop drugs from entering, it is forced to contract with a limited number of security firms in order to stay out of trouble with the state.  

Allstar Security & Consulting and AG Security Group were named in the latest filing in Chen’s case.

The word on the street is that the owners of the precarious club, which recently put down $15 million to take over the Electric Zoo festival on Randalls Island, are getting by out of a close relationship with Brooklyn’s former borough president, Eric Adams. Frank Carone, former chief-of-staff for Adams, represented the club in its legal fight with the State Liquor Authority, the Gothamist report points out. 

This is well known among club owners who have been losing booking to the Avant Gardner magnetic size and booking capacities.

“I just think I’ve seen venues in the city over the years having to close their doors for issues that are much more minor and insignificant than this venue. The fact that this venue has been able to stay open with three deaths and all that. It’s quite incredible. They must really have a special relationship with the mayor,” says the anonymous insider. 

Avant Garnder’s lawyers have yet to respond officially to the latest lawsuit that has landed on its doors, and representatives for the club did not return a request for comment. 

Chen tells me that the silence from the club’s owners has been deafening.

“There’s no post, no Instagram story from any of the event organizers or from the venue, apologizing for the way that attendees were treated,” he tells me.

He’ll see them in court. 

Top image taken by Alec Mercer.

For more news, sign up for Bushwick Daily’s newsletter.

Join the fight to save local journalism by becoming a paid subscriber