Owner of Momo's: 'We Feel Horrible That This Happened'

Rich Comunala extends condolences, clarifies bar's role in deadly incident.

The owner of Momo's Bar & Grill, a Holbrook nightspot recently thrust into the limelight after a fatal stabbing occurred outside its doors, has spoken to Patch about the incident, expressing his sorrow for the victim and his family.

Rich Comunala, who opened Momo's three and a half years ago after taking it over from "Murphy's Law," said that the bar had very little involvement in the incident, and that the alleged killer was actually denied entry to the establishment. Last night police revealed that they are charging 19-year-old Robert Gregory for the murder of 29-year-old Julian Pena.

The fatal stabbing took place shortly after midnight on Tuesday night, when police say Pena and another man were involved in a brawl between Gregory, Reuben Rosario, 28, and some other unidentified men in the parking lot outside the bar.

According to Comunala, Pena was inside the bar having drinks with friends when he left with a friend and walked across the street to the 7-Eleven. Comunala said that while Pena was gone, the group of men involved in the fight attempted to enter Momo's but were turned away by a Momo's bouncer.

"They looked like trouble," Comunala said when asked why they were stopped. "They were drinking in the parking lot already." Comunala added that Pena and his friend encountered the men on the way back to the bar, but didn't know what sparked the brawl. "Nobody knows what happened or what was said. We don’t know why it occurred."

News of the killing sparked a stream of comments on Sachem Patch and other news outlets. Some comments Comunala takes issue with.

"I’ve been reading a lot of comments from people on places like Newsday, and a lot of people think it had something to do with the bar," Comunala said. "It had nothing to do with the bar. I guess everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but we feel horrible that this happened. We do a lot of charity work, especially for Sachem."

Comunala said that the bar employs two bouncers on the weekend and one bouncer during the week. Since this incident happened on a weekday, there was one bouncer on shift.

"And it’s not because we have problems," he said. "Some people get bouncers because they have problems; I have bouncers because we don’t have problems."

According to Comunala, when the bouncer saw the fight break out in the parking lot he immediately called police. Gregory is scheduled to be arraigned in court today on a second degree murder charge. 

Maria F. September 27, 2012 at 02:20 PM
This is such a tragedy. This is my opinion: 1- Who drinks on a Tuesday night? 2- If the bouncer knew earlier they were drinking in parking lot and remained there beign rowdy, why not call police at that point for the safety of their customers and alert police of a rowdy group drinking in parking lot. The guy arreseted is 19 so he wasn't even of age to drink. 3- They felt so bad about incident taking place infront of bar, they were open last night. Its kinda sick. Couldnt close for one night. Or not, who would want to drink there the day after someone was killed outfront? What is wrong with people today?
getreal September 27, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Good points Maria!!
Leo Lehman Jr. September 27, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Maria I agree with your last 2 statements but your 1st point qualifies as Pure Ignorance!!!! a 29 year old man isnt allowed to go out on a Tuesday night? Your pretty much implying that Momo's & Bars around the Island should be closed during the week to ALL people because Monday - Thursday is considered the work week
Michelle September 27, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I support Momo's. My boyfriend andI go there regularly and never felt unsafe. Why are people missing the fact it happened in the parking lot. I also don't agree with passing judgement on some one drinking on a Tuesday. Momo's is a great bar surrondes by great people.
Cindy September 27, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Thank you Michelle!! @ Maria...it must take up alot of energy to be so perfect and be in the position to judge everyone on their actions....
Lingy September 27, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Ignorance takes all forms. Momo's is a good place with conscientious owners who make sure their patrons are safe and responsible. This has nothing to do with them.
Jessica Guilfoyle September 27, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Comunale ****
Joanne F September 27, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Maria you have a right to an opinion We all do But I believe you are wrong when you say the bouncer should have done something. It is not the bouncers responsibility for all that occurs outside an establishment. He is there to protect all who are in or on the premises With regard to opening last night - why should they not? They have a business to run; why should they lose money This horrific incident occurred outside not inside. I believe if you had a business you would have opened too. Momos is a wonderful establishment with great people. I have been going there since they opened. My husband and I bring our son there for lunch and dinner all the time. I feel very comfortable going there.
Russ September 27, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Ignorance is way too soft ! I like DUMB much much bettet.
Matthew McGevna (Editor) September 27, 2012 at 09:42 PM
@hows this, and others. Please refrain from using profanity in your comments. I try to run as loose a ship as possible, but profanity-laden screeds are a clear violation of Patch's terms of use. Comments with profanity will be deleted.
Sara September 27, 2012 at 10:34 PM
@Maria I spoke to the management and this was a misquote. The truth is security only knew he was drinking as he approached the bar he was not seen hanging in the lot drinking. Once denied his beverage was thrown away. Additionally HOW would closing pay homage? I agree with Joanna, it's a family style establishment supporting the community. I too bring my nephews there, along with their sports teams after games.
Paul A. September 28, 2012 at 02:08 AM
Wow Maria. Simply wow. Classic display of ignorance.
Nancy K. Nee September 28, 2012 at 10:49 AM
In defense of Marie..My first thought was ,,what is a 19 yr. old, doing out on a Tuesday night drinking? Hes underage and should have work or school the next day...I'm not talking about responsible adults,,,but a 19 yr old is different...I have kids the same age, so I'm fully aware of what goes on.....either way, its a shame that someone had to die and a family is destroyed.....as for Robert Gregory,..his actions also destroyed his own family as well...too bad he didn't think about all of that before hand.......
Nunzio Vitale September 28, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Maria don't pay attention to these apathetic individuals. If the bouncer saw a problem in the lot, he should of called police. Perhaps Juliian would still be here today. After all isn't the premises outside your establishment part of the COMMUNITY????? All thee people gloating the word ignorant. Make me laugh, I would love to see how different thier meager little comment would be if that was thier family member that was killed!!!
chris September 28, 2012 at 11:37 AM
First, let me start by saying this was a horrible, horrible thing to happen, regardless of what day of the week it was. That being said, as far as drinking in the parking lot, go past Momo's on any given Friday, Saturday and Sunday and you will see patrons drinking in the parking lot and sidewalk of the shopping mall at tables set up by Momo's. Do I think Momo's holds any responsibility? No, but if there was a problem with underage drinking in the parking lot, I do believe that the police should have been called.
Leo Lehman Jr. September 28, 2012 at 12:04 PM
your pretty pathetic and ignorant yourself!!! how often does someone get murdered in Holbrook the way this guy did???? Practically never!!! If anything it is the Police fault for not checking on the area... When I go to D&B in Islandia there is a Security Car that goes through the entire parking-lot once every half hour to check for people not out for everyones best interests
Patricia Connors September 28, 2012 at 12:28 PM
The owner of the bar is clearly responsible for creating an environment conducive to this type of behavior. Allowing alcohol to be consumed outside the bar sends the wrong message and draws the wrong element. Is there any wonder that something like this hapened? There should be NO drinking outside the establishment. MOMO's does not own the sidewalk. MOMO's liquor license does not extend to the sidewalk. Extending the bar to the sidewalk is illegal and inconsiderate to the patrons and owners of the other businesses near MOMO's. The town of Islip needs to get involved as well as the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce. How does this look to people driving through our town? This is a poor reflection on our community!
Hazel September 28, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Someone has made a comment about Momo's having a fundraiser to raise money for Julian's girlfriend and son. I would be more than willing to spread the word if they would do that.
Leo Lehman Jr. September 28, 2012 at 01:18 PM
what do you care??!! you are probably just some Sachem PTA mother who doesn't contribute anything more than Gossip with other mothers.... You don't care about the Community, you one of those "Keyboard Politicians" who thinks they are clearly right about everything...
Dee September 28, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Why is everyone blaming MoMo's and not Robert Gregory or his parents or all the adults in his life that obviously failed him. From what I heard this kid has been nothing but trouble. No matter where it happened, it was Robert Gregory who thought so little about taking another person's life. He was carrying the knife, I don't believe he got that from MoMo's. He was denied access, they didn't supply him with the liquor he was drinking, go by any parking lot late at night and you'll find groups of kids hanging out. Instead of blaming MoMo's why not ask what went wrong in this kids life that he could take anothers.
Jessica Guilfoyle September 28, 2012 at 02:01 PM
@patricia Connors Are the owners of waldbaums, stylus nails, or joes pizza responsible as well? They all share a parking lot. I'm at Momos about once a week, and the bouncers NEVER let anyone outside the ropes with a drink. They put standing tables outside for smokers,Go to any busy bar, there's bound to be 10-20 people outside smoking. Just like they don't OWN the sidewalk, they don't OWN the parking lot, so why should they be held responsible for the people in it? If someone gets stabbed on the street in front of your house are you responsible? Kids drink everywhere, it's not like they were patrons at the bar drinking in the parking lot. Why should the security at momos be responsible for the patrol, and control of the whole parking lot? And as someone who is close to the chamber of commerce (not speaking on their behalf) I know that momos does a lot with our community. They sponsor local teams, donate time and money, hold fundraising events for members in the community, and support many of the chamber's events. The chamber is about supporting local businesses, not bashing them, and blaming them with the acts of some punk kid.
Nunzio Vitale September 28, 2012 at 02:39 PM
@ jame, the word I used is apathetic not pathetic. Do you even know what that means? Who really is ignorant now ?
John Cosgrove September 28, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Jessica G. Very well said...Did the gang from Joe's pizza call the cops? This was a horrible horrible crime that some punk kid who's had an EXTENSIVE criminal record. He was arrested for assualt in August..just to be let out and kill! Where are the parents of this punk?? how was he allowed to become a menance to society....'fella enjoy the next 30 yrs being somones boy-toy
Sally September 28, 2012 at 07:13 PM
MoMo's should not have to be defending their establishment for any reason. The fact that the victim was in there relaxing with friends before the incident took place in the parking lot has nothing to do with what happened outside. If it was a private parking lot belonging to just MoMo's then maybe my opinion would be different. However, the parking lot is football fields huge and is shared by many other businesses. So to say that any one employee from any one business is responsible for the actions in that parking lot is ridiculous. People are giving police credit for finding the guys who did this so quickly, but I believe that the police need to step up patrols of our streets. Underage kids are out all hours of the night, all over the streets, drinking, doing drugs, driving drunk. If they were doing their jobs in the first place, none of this would have happened. Does it really matter what day of the week it was? People have different lives with different schedules. To each their own. The teenager who's been arrested will hopefully be held accountable for his actions. If his parents couldn't control his behavior up to this point, then the best place for him to be is in jail, where he can think about all of the people's lives he's wrecked, including his own, in his short 19 years. Hopefully Julian's friend will be able to come forward and tell us more. Julian, R.I.P. My thoughts and prayers are with all who knew and loved him, especially his son.
BMOR September 28, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Tuesday night: Adults can't drink when they want? Perhaps Brookhaven Township should Police the bars like they do the liquor stores and force them to close at 8:00PM too during the week!!! Speaking of the Police, if they were patrolling the neighborhoods instead of sitting in the fire houses waiting for the next call, this and a lot more might not have happened.
People should take responsibility for their own actions and in this instance, the person who stabbed Julian Pena is the one responsible for taking his life. The loss of a loved one is devastating, especially because of the violence involved. Right now, maybe it's a time to reflect on the life of Mr. Pena and what the loss of his life represents to his family and friends. I'm quite sure that Julian's family members would rather read "condolences" or highlights about his life instead of all the spewing of negative comments. I wouldn't be surprised if they read these posts. I don't see Momo's, the bouncer or the Police being at fault because Mr. Gregory made a poor choice by carrying a knife and using it to inflict fatal wounds to Julian. So many lives are now in an upheaval because of the actions of one person. The repercussions and its effects on many lives now come into play. A judge and jury will now decide Robert's fate. In the meantime, I would like to send my condolences to the family of Julian Pena. Though I don't know him, his life was meaningful to his 2 year old child and his loved ones and I pray for the healing of their broken hearts. May Julian Pena rest in peace and may his memory and loving spirit live. Peace and Blessings ~
Steve Gerasimovich October 02, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Tragedy!!! ENOUGH SAID.
Natali Altenburg - JAP October 19, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Julian was the love of my life - from our 1st kiss on sept 6th, 2008 till forever. To those who ask "who goes drinking on a tuesday night?" - momos is a bar and grill - Julian happened to also go there just to buy chicken wings, catch a game, hang out with friends. We litterally live across the street and up the block. We've walked there plenty of times. He was out with his coworker because they were off the next day for the Jewish Holiday. He's a 29year old MAN - not some little boy. I saw his bar tab... it was barely over 22$. I dont drink but i know my Julian - I know what his body can handle - he was just enjoying his night. The life of the military man usually leads you to be an alcoholic... but my babe was not. a social drinker was all he ever was while we were together. Our son misses his daddy so much. he asks for him constantly, telling me we must go find him. and i wish we could. Julian was the greatest father in the world. our son was the absolute joy of our lives and Julian used to stare at him in amazement and pride. We were happy until this one horrible individual decided to take away his life. Im angry inside. That man ruined mine and my sons life... Momo's was always a favorite place of Julians... its not there fault. RIP lover <3
Natali Altenburg - JAP October 19, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Momo's is having a Fundraiser in Julian's honor For our Son on Saturday Oct 20th from 1pm -8pm... all ages are welcomed. Julian is in a better place now and always on my mind and in my heart. RIP babe


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