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Tommy Greco, owner of Ritz Bar and Lounge where 25-year-old Julio Ramirez was last seen alive, broke his six-week silence at a press conference this morning. Council member Erik Bottcher, who called the press event today, introduced Greco as “a friend and local community leader.”
Greco said: “I’ve been the owner of Ritz now for 17 years and operator of an LGBT establishment in Hell’s Kitchen for 20 years. So I’ve had my share of PRIDEs. My only advice is: be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of who’s with you and who’s coming and going. At our club at the Ritz, we are going to have heightened bag checks and we will be checking in with our patrons and making sure that everybody is OK and feeling good and really enjoying this PRIDE. I am very excited to have a PRIDE with the restrictions being lifted.”
“Nightlife operators are working really hard to keep everyone safe. It’s not easy being a nightlife operator. There is a lot of stuff that happens beyond your control. We support you and your efforts,” added Bottcher after Greco had spoken. In 2012, Greco campaigned in the Democratic Primary for the Senate seat now occupied by Brad Hoylman.
Greco spoke to W42ST about the tragedy this afternoon by phone. “As a parent of two small children in this community, I am heartbroken by the pain this boy’s parents are experiencing right now. I have full faith that the NYPD and its world-class detectives will discover all the pieces and deliver the answers to the family that they rightfully deserve,” he said.
During the photocall at The Spot bar on 10th Avenue attended by local media, there was a period of silence in memory of Ramirez, with an appeal for “Justice for Julio”. The event focused on a list of “rules” compiled by city officials about how to “party safely” during PRIDE and to be aware of Fentanyl in recreational drugs. The Medical Examiner’s office has not yet completed toxicology testing after the death of Ramirez in the early hours of April 21.
“We want justice for Julio Ramirez, and we want to make sure that everyone knows how to stay safe during PRIDE,” Bottcher said. “How to go out, have fun, but use common sense.”
Yesterday, PIX11 reported Ramirez’s death may be tied to a robbery ring that drugs its victims, according to law enforcement sources. “It appears to be a pattern. There’s a group going around,” said one of their sources.
More Coverage of the Death of Julio Ramirez
The source added that the ring was targeting people in Hell’s Kitchen, especially those who appeared to be drinking. One member of the ring may be posing as a taxi or Uber driver. “This is the first case where somebody died,” the PIX11 source said.
This evening, there will be a Justice for Julio candlelit vigil at 7:30pm at the Ritz Bar and Lounge at 369 W46th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue). Following the gathering, community members, friends and family will march to Times Square. “Julio must be remembered,” said Catie Savage, who has helped organize the vigil. “The vigil for Julio is about honoring a life taken too soon. His story is a reminder of how important it is for all of us to look out for each other as a community.”
This story has been updated after our interview with Tommy Greco this afternoon.