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He turned his garage into a nightclub. Now the city wants to shut it down and kick him out

Frederick Poole closes the door of his garage that he originally turned into his "Man Cave" at his home on Hollenbeck Street in Rochester where he hosted parties and community gatherings in his back yard that Poole named "Da Garage".
Max Schulte
Frederick Poole closes the door of his garage at his home on Hollenbeck Street in Rochester. He had turned the garage into his "man cave" but he's since gone on to host parties and community gatherings in the space, which he's named Da Garage.

On a sunny early spring day, Frederick “Peedee” Poole pulls up the twin roller doors at the front of his backyard garage on Hollenbeck Street.

There are no cars inside, lawn care equipment or storage.

Instead, a marble bar top spans the northern wall, inset with a restaurant-style deep fryer. A turntable sits the opposite corner, and two black leather couches fill out the back wall.

There is a patio deck on the roof, and a trio of fire pits outside.

This is Da Garage, a space Poole originally built out as his “man cave,” then as a space for meetings of Black business owners.

Over time, Da Garage also developed into a makeshift nightclub.

Frederick Poole is shown in a grey hoodie outside his home on Hollenbeck Street in northeast Rochester.
Max Schulte
Frederick Poole lives on Hollenbeck Street in northeast Rochester and has hosted parties and community gatherings in his backyard and a space he nicknamed "Da Garage."

“It’s almost like a happy-hour effect,” Poole said, speaking of his vision of Da Garage. “But at a house in a real neighborhood, with real people, and a real experience.”

One that can get loud.

Of the three flat screen TVs Poole used to have on the back wall, only one remains. The other two have been shaken out of the wall mounts by the towers of speakers stacked three high.

This business venture — complete with private security and, occasionally, hundreds of revelers paying at the door — has repeatedly landed Poole in hot water with the city. Now the city is suing Poole, asking a court to deem 186 Hollenbeck St. a public nuisance, board up Da Garage for a year and kick Poole off the property.

The last straw was a series of parties earlier this year, including two in early March, one involving roughly 150 people and another where police arrived for reports of gunfire and recovered multiple shell casings outside and down the street.

City Hall assessed nuisance points and code violations against Poole’s property – as they had two years prior after similar encounters scenarios played out. This time, Mayor Malik Evans ordered Da Garage shut down. And the city sued.

Poole is set to appear in court next month.

He sees Da Garage not as a nuisance, but a community hub.

“This is probably a high-volume crime area, so I get it,” Poole said. “But they know we come from around here, we have an influx of people from around here, Da Garage kind of keeps an order.”

The Hickey Freeman building is on the same block as the house. Down the street is the Avenue D recreation center. Around the corner is the city’s North Clinton Avenue firehouse.

Corner stores abound.

Da Garage, to Poole, is a place where people in the neighborhood can hang out, have a drink, and blow off steam. He acknowledges that fights and violence have happened around the property, but he insists the gathering spot provides a net positive for a community with little in the way of things to do after dark.

A red turntable is seen in the foreground with Frederick Poole standing inside his converted garage, a flat screen TV is mounted on the wall behind him and there are large bare spots where two others once hung.
Max Schulte
Frederick Poole stands inside "Da Garage" at his home on Hollenbeck Street in northeast Rochester where he has hosted what the city claims are a number of illegal parties.

The nearest bar, Four Brothers Tavern on Hudson Avenue, is a mile away.

The city has a different view of Da Garage: It has no liquor license, no entertainment license, is a nuisance, and is potentially dangerous to the community.

“North Clinton Avenue is where you’d put something like this,” said city Corporation Counsel Patrick Beath, the city’s top lawyer. “An establishment where people can gather, for entertainment, whatever that may be, that’s up to the owner. But there’s a legal way to do it, and Da Garage is not it.”

Da Garage kicks off

Poole took title to the property in September 2019. Da Garage first came to the attention of the city two years later, on a night when Poole had rapper Jadakiss do a “walkthrough” of the party, a paid appearance that cost Poole $12,000.

The city issued 10 nuisance points against the property for that party, in which fights broke out and shots were fired.

Nuisance points are a way for the city to track properties that are deemed magnets for neighborhood issues. A property is deemed a public nuisance triggering possible city action if it racks up 12 or more points within six months, or 18 or more points in a year. Points vary. A fight at a property can result in six points being assessed but if a firearm or other dangerous weapon is involved that goes up to 10 points.

An aerial view of Frederick Poole's Hollenbeck Street house shows a densely packed neighborhood with houses close together. His backyard is largely a concrete slab. And the patio deck atop his two-car garage is visible.
Max Schulte
Frederick Poole is facing a legal battle with the city after hosting large parties in backyard of his Hollenbeck Street home. His property, the concrete backyard area and converted two-car garage with a patio deck Poole dubbed "Da Garage" are shown in the middle of the photo with the light blue roof.

The city assessed additional nuisance points for parties Poole hosted in early April 2022, and ticketed him for a noise violation. Then city officials offered Poole a deal: stop all parties immediately and they would drop the nuisance points.

Beath said things were quiet for about two years after that. But in February, Poole relaunched Da Garage with a series of parties. Police reports from the events show multiple people had called and complained. WXXI attempted to speak with multiple neighbors. None were willing to talk on the record or express any concerns about the property’s events.

This time, the city tried a new tactic to stop the parties at Da Garage.

Mayor Malik Evans’s gun violence state of emergency declaration gives City Hall the right to shut down properties believed to be connected with gun violence. And on March 5, Evans issued an order calling for a halt to all social activities at Poole’s house.

Party’s over

“When a location makes it up the chain to the Mayor’s Office, it’s a problem,” Evans said, referring to Da Garage.

The city has sought to curb large, overnight house parties for more than a decade, spanning multiple city administrations.

Back in 2007, then-Mayor Robert Duffy described the illegal after-hours gatherings as “hotbeds of violence.” The parties become illegal when hosts charge admission, sell alcohol or serve minors. There had been three deaths at house parties in the previous two months.

“You don’t have a right to use your residence to run a business,” Thomas Richards, the city’s corporation counsel said at the time. “You don’t have a right to run a bar in your house.”

Richards would later become mayor and take up the mantle. The Evans administration has done the same. During Evans’ State of the City address last week, he said that the city Law Department has shut down 20 illegal properties in the past year.

Evans called it a matter of “accountability,” saying these large gathering at businesses and houses "can become venues of violence.”

There’s precedent for shutting down houses entirely due to parties.

A rental house at 336 Hawley Street in southwest Rochester was the site of numerous illegal house parties but has been boarded up since February under the city's authority.
Gino Fanelli
A rental house at 336 Hawley Street in southwest Rochester was the site of numerous illegal house parties but has been boarded up since February under the city's authority.

In January, the city boarded up a house on Hawley Street that had allegedly been the site of unruly parties he dubbed "The Kickback." That house is owned by a non-profit organization affiliated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester. Beath said that party promoter, Anthony Milling, continued to host different parties around the city after being removed from Hawley Street in February.

The Hawley Street house’s doors and windows are currently boarded up.

“These aren’t just like parties where you have your friends over, these make money,” Beath said. “They’re charging 30, 40 bucks to get into these spots, they’re selling booths illegally for I don’t know how much. There’s money to be made.”

In a sworn affidavit, Rochester police Lt. Nicole Tamburello Conway alleged one woman was complaining about being charged $40 to use the bathroom during a party at Da Garage back in March.

'We got something good'

Poole is under no illusion that his intentions are solely benevolent —though some of his earlier events were. For example, one of the first events Da Garage hosted was a fundraiser for the funeral of a slain Harris Street teen.

“I think we raised around $9,000, and we used it to bury the kid,” Poole said.

But his parties, and other events he hosts at the property, like fitness classes, are entrepreneurial in spirit.

Da Garage is not his first business venture. He formerly ran a restaurant, Life Eatery, on North Clinton Avenue. That restaurant closed in 2019 and Poole now works in real estate.

Frederick Poole stands against a grill in the backyard of his Hollenbeck Street home in northeast Rochester. Two firepits are visible on the concrete slab in the background.
Max Schulte
Frederick Poole at his home on Hollenbeck Street in northeast Rochester where he has hosted what the city says are illegal parties in his backyard and a space Poole named "Da Garage."

And he thinks that Da Garage, despite its faults, can do good for an economically distressed neighborhood. He said he wants the space to be something the neighborhood can be proud of.

“If we got something good for us around here, we want to protect it,” Poole said. “That’s pretty much how it is, the neighborhood protecting it.”

On the city’s end, though, there’s no legal path forward for Da Garage to serve as any kind of event space.

When asked what it would take for the city to back down from removing him from the property, Beath offered a succinct response.

“It would be a very high bar,” he said.

Gino Fanelli is an investigative reporter who also covers City Hall. He joined the staff in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.