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CB3 Recap: Neighbors vs. Nightlife

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Sleepless nights: David Mulkins holds up a poster depicting the effects of "bad bars" on the neighborhood.

The visual aides were a cut above at last night’s CB3 bar brawl.  That’s David Mulkins of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors (pictured above), with a new weapon in the fight against noisy nightlife establishments: colorful posters blown up big enough for even the most jaded community board members to see!

Enemy #1 last night was the Lit Lounge, the 2nd Avenue rock club. The owners told members of the SLA Committee they hoped to transfer their full liquor license to a new venture under the name “93 Art LLC.” Even before any members of the audience chimed in, Committee Chair Alexandra Militano (who lives nearby) complained there are “anywhere between 30-50 people making noise” outside the bar on many nights. She also noted that Lit Lounge has gotten in trouble for “smoking law violations.”

One resident called the owners “a lawless group,” who don’t bother cleaning up broken glass on the sidewalk, refuse to control their customers and are unresponsive to complaints. A young guy who just moved in upstairs from the bar six months ago complained about loud music until at least 4 in the morning. Saying he would not renew his lease, he added “you are an unbelievably irresponsible business.” The owner responded, “we did not know  you felt this strongly.”  He pledged to take steps to appease his neighbors. The application was withdrawn to give the owners time to regroup. One CB3 member, Ariel Palitz (a bar owner herself) advised, “overwhelm us with how much you care.”

It was a similar story for the legendary Pyramid Club, “a temple of iniquity” on Avenue A.  After listening to complaints from residents about lots of noise emanating from the club’s Monday night party, CB3 members directed the proprieters to “turn down your bass.”  They voted to support the application for renewal, with stipulations.

The guys behind TPoutine, the 7-month old Canadian eatery on Ludlow Street, received another arctic reception from CB3. Their application for a beer/wine license was rejected last year. Back then, CB3 members noted the restaurant is in a so-called “resolution area,” a section of the neighborhood already overburdened with bars. The owners said they’re having a tough time making a go of it without a liquor license. In the face of continued opposition, they agreed to withdraw their application.

Some operators had a relatively easy time of it last night. The owners of Antibes Bistro on Suffolk Street had no trouble winning support for their expansion into the adjoining space.

Also, Zucco’s partner came before CB3 to ask for permission to serve wine outside. Last month, the owner of the beloved Orchard Street diner died of a heart attack. There’s just one table (four chairs) outside in front of the restaurant. The partner said having the ability to serve alcohol at that table will help him keep the place afloat. Chair Militano expressed alarm at the suggestion that, perhaps, the diner’s future was in doubt. The partner suggested he had every intention of keeping Zucco open. The committee voted to support the application.

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  1. Also interesting the case in which new management asked for a transfer in a resolution area. The request was complicated by the SLA’s determination that the license should be treated as new. So the committee was placed in the unpopular position of supporting a new license in an oversaturated area, even though, in a practical de facto sense, there was nothing new in the location.

    What interested me was: 1) support (more or less) for the license from the block association and 2) the fact that the original license owner had gone to the SLA without going to the CB committee.

    Both of these show what was wrong with the resolution area policy as it used to be employed:

    1. Owners need to be considered individually, and the local residents should be consulted. Block associations sometimes will prefer a good neighbor license owner rather than see the current business fail and replaced with a worse license owner. That’s a local call that the CB should take seriously.

    2. The resolution area policy in effect sent applicants straight to the SLA without any comment from the community. The SLA would not consider the resolution because the resolution didn’t afford the individual applicant his or her due process. The result was that the resolution area policy actually caused more licenses in the resolution areas than outside (at least in some months — I haven’t reviewed every month).

    One CB chair actually defended the resolution areas by pointing to the CB voting docket where there were no applicants in the resolution area (I think it was March 2006), proving that the resolutions had deterred applicants from those areas. I pointed out that there were actually more applicants in the resolution area than outside, but because the CB didn’t vote on resolution areas, those applicants didn’t appear on the CB docket. In other words, the resolution areas were encouraging more licenses than non-saturated areas. He then called me a variety of names over a few days of broadly disseminated e-mails. :-)

    Around last year or so ago, the SLA advised the CB to restore due process. The balance of recognition of saturated areas and individual consideration seems to be right now.

    Tagging on last month’s question of the right to transfer a license: property is not an absolute right in the US. The EV rezoning, for example, stole many landlords’ air rights when the height caps were imposed. There is no right to sell a slave, for example. Property, like any form of commerce or like taxes, is regulated by legislation, usually modulated by considerations of the public interest.

  2. I think it’s pretty clear to everyone that the “resolution area” policy needs to be revisited by the community board. Many times in recent months, committee members have been put in the position of having to adhere to arbitrary rules that don’t necessarily make sense in every case. As of yet (as far as I know) the CB has not scheduled a time to address the issue. The other night, CB3 member Meghan Joye said she believed the time has come to have a “policy meeting.” I believe this is what she was referring to.

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