In a 2008 Observer profile, Hotel on Rivington owner Paul Stallings called himself a “big fish in a small pond” and said he’d been on the “cutting edge” of the Lower East Side “transitioning into what it is.” The members of the fledgling Lower East Side Dwellers Association would likely not argue with this assessment. Last night, they came face to face, as Stallings and his team went before Community Board 3′s SLA Committee to renew the boutique hotel’s liquor license.
The LES Dwellers, a new block association making a stand against nightlife proliferation, returned to CB3 a month after persuading the board to reject another license, for a new restaurant at 106 Rivington, just across the street from the trendy hotel. Members of the organization complained about late night noise emanating from THOR’s three nightlife establishments (Viktor & Spoils, Co-op Food & Drink and the lobby lounge). They said party-goers crowd the sidewalk, that delivery trucks and cars block the Rivington Street bike lane and that the hotel’s street-side windows are kept open past 10 p.m. (in violation of a previous agreement to shut them).
Diem Boyd, LES Dwellers’ leader, said the group would support a renewal but only if Stallings promised to abide by stipulations meant to limit the noise and crowds — and if hotel management agreed to “become more involved” in dealing with complaints from neighbors.
Stallings appeared alongside his general manager, Marc Anthony, who came on board in January of this year. Stallings said past complaints had not been passed along to him by hotel staffers. He promised to improve communication, saying “I am open to a dialogue,” through he cautioned, “I am what I am and Rivington Street is what it is.”
Susan Stetzer, CB3′s district manager, said she had funneled complaints through Anthony, who told her he was reluctant to engage residents directly. “We have not had forthcoming conversations,” Stetzer added. In response, Stallings noted that he lives only four blocks away from the hotel and is always available. “The buck stops with me,” he said, assuring CB3 members that he would do a better job of “policing” his staff and specifically making sure windows are closed at an appropriate hour. He also indicated that quite a few changes have already been made to address noise concerns, including the addition of soundproofing and the creation of a longer hallway/holding area inside the hotel’s entryway. Stallings said he’s now looking at enclosing a skylight in the back of the hotel, which is apparently a source of some of the noise complaints.
Several members of CB3′s liquor licensing panel were skeptical since, in their view, the hotel had failed to live up to commitments it made before opening in 2004. “We had serious reservations when you opened,” said CB3 member Harvey Epstein. “It feels like you’re not being-proactive” in dealing with concerns from neighbors.
In the end, however, the committee voted to approve the renewal. Stallings agreed to meet with the LES Dwellers and to post contact information, so that anyone with concerns can be assured of getting in touch with Stallings or Anthony. The full board will vote on the application next week, before forwarding a recommendation to the State Liquor Authority.