North Philly's 'beach' now closed for public events

From left: Disco Inferno; Tariq Knight; his father and the owner of the lot, Chris Knight; and the promoter of the space, David Brown, relax poolside in a former parking lot in North Philly on Wednesday, July 11, 2018.

The grand opening for the New Beach Club in North Philly may have been its last hurrah.

The auto body shop parking lot turned sandy venue will have to close, after a neighbor complained to landlord Ray Murphy about how hundreds attended a Friday night party complete with two pools, cabanas, chaise longues, and a volleyball court — something its organizers created to offer summer respite in Swampoodle.

Murphy said on Tuesday, the day a story was published in the Inquirer about the elaborate space designed to mimic a Shore setting, that he had to “nip it in the bud,” and sent letters to tenant Chris Knight, the owner of the auto-body shop, notifying him he had violated his lease agreement. Late Tuesday afternoon, Murphy met with Knight to emphasize that beach club events can no longer happen.

An organizer who gave his name only as Disco Inferno promised the beach would remain “a chill spot”– without the events. Although Knight did not comment on the beach’s future, he expressed disappointment in a text message.

“That’s so sad how you can’t even try to do something nice for [the] black community,” he wrote, detailing that he had eventually planned to add video games. “I did all what was done so far from the heart out of … my pocket without any help from anyone. …  Our people are their own worst enemies. You go out other places, they have bike trails, ziplining, hockey, swimming clubs. What do the kids in the inner city have? Guns, jail and graveyards.”

Camera icon CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
The parking lot of an auto-repair garage in North Philadelphia was converted into a mini beach with sand, above-ground pools, a wooden deck, and beach furniture for a party on July 13, 2018. Ron Carroll flips into the larger pool.

Murphy said a club of this nature would fare better in the suburbs. But when asked to respond to how locals praised the location, he changed course and said Allegheny Avenue would be better. It’s a wide strip without congestion and parking problems, he said, not a one-way residential street like North 21st Street.

“I believe that North Philly deserves to have everything that every other community has,” he said. “This thing they have is a no-no for that particular street. Logistically, it’s impossible.”

Murphy acknowledged that he heard that Knight gave away food on the Fourth of July, which he said was commendable. But the landlord said he got the full story about the beach on Saturday, after a neighbor stopped him on the street to complain.

“I guess it went just a little bit too far and went a little bit late at night,” he said.

He said he believes Knight had good intentions. His concerns are primarily about zoning and necessary permits.

“You best believe in the city of Philadelphia that you have to have the proper [zoning] use, or they will shut you down,” said Murphy. “Is it a good idea? Absolutely. … I feel sorry for the investment that he probably made to deliver his product.”