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“Giving Bars a Break” – Some of Your Comments

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Yesterday, our question of the day focused on the nightlife debate on the LES. We asked whether the NYPD should be giving bars a break? The question came up at a recent Community Board 3 meeting in which two members argued that, oftentimes, the Police Department "cabaret units" unfairly target some bars and clubs. Here's a look at what Lo-Down readers had to say.

East Village Lover commented:

wants all bars to disappear, we just want them to be managed, as many
other cities do through zoning, and protecting the interests of the
RESIDENTS. So many bars are now advocating serious drinking to even
further raise their revenues to pay the disturbingly high rents…
not like there were never bars in the EV, and for people who've lived
here for decades we love it here because the nightlife was part of the
great mix. The difference is the RECENT rude and loud people who come
to visit and then are bad guests… There are fewer essential services – butcher,
fishmonger, bodegas and groceries and other retailers that we would
love to have back. Instead we have hookah bars and frat bars where
those businesses used to be. 

In fact, state lawmakers are studying the idea of changing zoning regulations to bolster businesses that provide "essential services." They heard testimony about the issue at a hearing we covered back in September. They also touched on an issue Lo-Down reader Stuart raised:

The East
Village is a perfect example of the vicious cycle that bars create; a
successful bar opens, appears to all to be a cash cow, when "regular
stores" leases come up, landlords raise the rents exponentially in
hopes of getting a bar. Eventually the neighborhood is a shadow of
itself, just a facade, with no real retail businesses that residents
need, just a slew of bars and restaurants with an old neighborhood feel.

At that hearing, more than one witness argued that it's not the bars or the landlords who are at fault, but excessively high commercial property taxes. They said landlords have little choice but the raise their rents in order to pay taxes that are seriously out of whack, compared to residential property tax rates. In a recent retail report by the Two Bridges neighborhood Council, business owners said they face other hurdles, as well. Near the top of the list: a lack of daytime foot traffic (especially below Houston). On that issue, Rob commented:

daytime businesses thrived on local patronage, but couldn't compete
with the new trend of bars, which thrive on a far wider non-local
patronage and have a much higher cash flow. As long-term commercial
leases come up for renewal, the old long-term businesses just
disappear. Jeremaiah's and Grieve's blogs are devoted to recording the
unrelenting loss. These were viable and useful businesses needed in the
community, they just couldn't compete with bars.

Recently Community Board 3's new economic development committee commissioned a study to determine what kinds of businesses are viable on the LES. For the moment, there are stronger opinions about what residents DON'T want more of in the neighborhood. Debbie said:

…bars bring in one thing in our neighborhoods, large
crowds who don't respect that this is a residential area and people are
sleeping, they leave their litter, bring a lot of noise with quite a
bit of disruption to an already unbearable situation.

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