The Pleasantville club has its commercial license revoked after its disappearance

PLEASANTVILLE — The family of Irving Mayren-Guzman believe they are on the verge of seeing justice for the 19-year-old’s death.

Due to a history of incidents at Centerfolds Cabaret spanning several years, Pleasantville City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to revoke the establishment’s business license, effectively shutting it down. Mayren-Guzman was assaulted by three men outside the club in the early morning hours of January 23. It was the last time he was seen alive before his body was found in a nearby swamp two days later.

“It was an emotional moment for us,” Mayren-Guzman’s brother Eduardo Alvarez said of the outcome of the board meeting, “because we had worked so hard. We were there (at Centerfolds) to protest for days and days. Even in the snow, I showed up with shovels and stuff like that to let people in.

“In this particular moment, just hearing all the yeses…it confirmed that in the United States we have a voice. We can be represented.”

Several hundred people marched from Centerfolds to City Council – a route they have taken many times since the tragedy – ahead of the 6.30pm meeting. Dozens of signs with Mayren-Guzman’s face could be seen, along with a few Mexican flags. The council chamber was packed with friends, family and other well-wishers; and the rest of the crowd stayed outside awaiting the council’s decision.

The session began with the testimony of Luis Martinez, Mayren-Guzman’s friend who was with him at the club the morning of his disappearance. A lawyer asked Martinez questions while a television showed surveillance footage of the two entering the club. The sight of Mayren-Guzman in her last moments of life brought tears to some in the chamber.

According to Martinez, who is also 19, the two showed their real IDs but were still allowed in despite being under 21. When the two went to the bar, he said the bartender didn’t ask for ID. He also claimed that it was not the first time he had been there with friends.

“My current ID, the vertical card,” Martinez said when the attorney asked what he showed the bouncer at the door.

The attorney representing the owners of Centerfolds asked Martinez no questions about that night, but offered his condolences to the family. He also said that due to an altercation within the club, the bouncers were forced to remove Mayren-Guzman. Shortly after, the three men were seen assaulting her.

“I guess they had a good time,” the lawyer said, “but the club had a responsibility to manage themselves.”

After an executive session of approximately one hour, the board returned for the public comment portion. Speakers included Alvarez, Atlantic City activist Steve Young and others.

Ed Weinstock, an Atlantic County attorney, argued in favor of revoking the license due to the club’s long history of incidents.

“(There were) three theft calls, emergency medical services calls, one car burglary call, one motor vehicle stolen call, one theft call,” said Weinstock. “This is every police call that has just been made to go to the Centerfolds location in the past three years.

“Is it any surprise that we find ourselves here today? There was a gradual deterioration that ultimately led to what happened here.”

Mayren-Guzman’s mother, Zara Mayren, said she wanted the club to close so no relative would have to deal with a loss like her.

“This place is to blame for my son’s murder,” she told the council. “Him being a minor, they allowed him in. Not only that, but he was also served alcohol while he was underage. Three men brutally beat him on the Centerfolds property, and they didn’t did nothing to stop it.

“I’m just asking for a fair decision and for you to put yourself in my shoes and stop and think it could have been any of your children instead of my son who was killed. I demand justice. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

No one from the public has come forward to speak out in favor of Centerfolds retaining the license.

After public comment, the board voted 6-0 to revoke the license. The room erupted in applause.

Outside, the crowd cheered and played music for about 45 minutes. A few supporters used a microphone to address the crowd, expressing their gratitude to everyone in attendance and the Pleasantville Police Department for hosting the family’s many protests over the past few weeks.

The family is still awaiting the results of the autopsy. The three men involved, Jamaul Timberlake, 30, of Atlantic City; John Hands, 24, of Pleasantville; and 29-year-old Garnell Hands of Pleasantville remain in custody. They were each charged with aggravated assault.

The charges against Timberlake, John Hands and Garnell Hands are just charges. None of them have been convicted in this case.

“They were happy because we went through it,” Alvarez said of his parents after the vote. “Every day we go through it, we live it. Most of us don’t even sleep because what happened to us is traumatic. It’s a very traumatic experience.”

As the crowd dwindled around 9:30 p.m., Zara and a few others began to return to Centerfolds. They took a large loudspeaker on wheels with them and continued to play music while singing on the road.

Ahmad Austin Jr. is a longtime South Jersey resident who writes stories in the health and cannabis industries for Burlington County Times, Courier-Post and The Daily Journal. For story advice, contact [email protected]

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