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Gotti Hangout On The Lamb.
April 22, 2000
By AL GUART, New York Post
John Gotti's landmark social club in Queens has been sliced in half - to make way for a butcher shop.
The Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park, where a young Gotti made his bones and blasted his way from obscurity to the front pages, has been downsized to make room for Joe the Butcher and Deli.
The 33-year-old Bergin is where Gotti was first caught on wiretaps and bugs running gambling rackets and ordering a union official shot. It was also where he feted the neighborhood each Fourth of July with fireworks and Boar's Head hamburgers.
For years, the club was two nondescript brick storefronts secretly connected on the inside. Both sides had bright red metal doors with small two-way mirrors and hefty padlocks. Metal grates on the windows and vertical blinds helped keep cops from sneaking in or snooping.
Now there's a clear glass door on the right and a new window featuring a pig dressed as a chef, two plastic roosters and signs that read "Grand Opening" and "'We gladly accept orders for lamb and goat."
Inside, a 12-foot-long refrigerated counter is stocked with cold cuts and lucky dollar bills are taped to a freshly painted wall. A Boar's Head sign lists the price of prosciutto, roast beef and bologna. And a small butcher's block sits a few feet from a room-size, stainless steel, walk-in freezer.
Gone was the large desk in what was Gotti's front office. Missing from the back is the barber's chair he favored for haircuts and lawmen saw as an ideal spot for a bugging device.
"It's not active any more," meat dealer Tony Bosco said of the Bergin. "It's a shell of what it used to be."
In the old days, the Bergin was where the future Gambino boss was caught griping about a debtor protected by another capo.
"This kid's got my nose wide open," Gotti said. "This punk will only meet me down at the oval, in the weeds, near the pond and the horses, wherever the f- that is."
On another Bergin tape, played often by prosecutors seeking to lock the Teflon Don in a cage, Gotti berated an underling for not returning phone calls.
"I need an example. Don't be the f-ing example. You understand me? You gonna disregard my motherf-ing phone calls, I'll blow you and that f-ing house up. If I hear anybody else calls and you take five days to respond, I'll f-ing kill you."
Outside, colorful triangular flags twist in the cool breeze while a deranged neighborhood fixture known as Joanie, dressed in wool cap and a shirt modeled after the American flag, preached an incoherent doomsday message.
Four firefighters who walked in to stock up on cold cuts asked not to be photographed.
Proprietor and longtime Bergin landlord Giuseppi "Joe" Zollo kept mum on how he managed to get the Gambinos to surrender half their club.
"I got up at 4 in the morning and picked up my stuff for the store," Zollo said. "I work, I say ‘Hello' to everybody. I'm a friend to everybody."
Pointing to the Bergin's door as if it was miles away, Zollo said, "They're over there. I don't know nothing. I mind my own business."
At 11:30 a.m., an annoyed Peter Gotti - John's brother - arrived in a black Lincoln sedan, instructed a photographer to "be nice" and walked into the Bergin.
Inside the dark, musty-smelling club, paneled walls were painted brown on bottom and white on top. On the right hung a painting that depicted a smiling Gotti superimposed on an undulating American flag.
To the left, a large, round card table was folded up against the wall. Above it was a photo containing several sports figures, including football great Joe Namath.
At the far end stood a small, unkempt bar. A back room housed the kitchen Gotti's crew once used to cook Italian dishes on Wednesdays.
A middle-aged woman did a double take after noticing the new shop.
"I really could do without the Gottis," she said. "I'd really much rather have the butcher shop for the neighborhood."
Copyright © 2000 PLR International