Community Board 3’s SLA Committee meeting was a relatively tame affair last night. Memo to bar owners: August is a great time to get your liquor license application past CB3. The biggest topic of conversation in the cheap seats was EV Grieve’s totally hilarious and “spot on” Community Board/SLA Drinking Game. For the record, at least one applicant did in fact proclaim, “dear old mom from the Old Country will be the chef.”
The most intriguing concept of the night came from the team behind “Dans Le Noir?,” the “blind dining” franchise from Paris. Having just flown in from France yesterday, the owners walked community board members through an impressive proposal for the former “Tonic” space on Norfolk Street. The idea, they said, is simple: “Diners eat in the pitch dark and are served by blind people, creating an interesting sensory experience.”
Dans Le Noir? co-founder Edouard de Broglie, elaborating on the concept, said, “you become the blind and they (the servers) become your eyes.” It’s a fusion menu with french accents. The owners noted that 10-percent of the profits go to charities around the world. CB3 members asked them to consider giving to LES-based organizations specifically, but they could not commit to that because the staff of each restaurant makes those choices “as a team.” Committee Chair Alex Militano said CB3 had received a couple of letters from residents opposed to more liquor licenses on Norfolk. But in the end, the committee gave its approval.
Also last night, the panel signed off on La Flaca, a New Mexican cantina at 384 Grand Street. The license is being transferred to owners Daniela Libertini and Bobby Gonzalez from Two Boots Tavern operator Phil Hartman. The restaurant will have 13 tables and a bar with seven seats.
Three residents showed up in opposition. Norma Ramirez, who lives in the Seward Park Co-op said many people are outraged about the restaurant’s proposed 4am closing time. Complaining that she only found out about the application a couple of days ago and noting that it was hard to get people to turn out on a rainy night, Ramirez asked CB3 to hold off making a decision. It was mentioned that The Lo-Down posted a story on La Flaca some time ago (July 23rd, to be exact). But the detractors countered that senior citizens, a large contingency in the cooperative, don’t use the internet. Another Seward Park resident, Deborah Finston, echoed the concerns about lack of notification.
Meghan Joye, a committee member, bar owner (Lucky Jack’s, Donnybrook) and Grand Street resident spoke in favor of an approval. Saying there are few bars or restaurants in the immediate area, she pleaded, “we’re dying for a place like this.” Another CB3 member/bar owner Ariel Palitz asked (sarcastically), “don’t you like to eat?” She then added, “there’s no way we’re going to shut off nightlife.”
The committee decided to back the proposal, although Militano expressed concerns about the menu (which becomes fairly limited after 11pm). Ramirez complained, “the community has not had an opportunity to speak. I thought you would be fair about it, but you’ve just made up your minds and that’s it.” After the committee had moved on to the next application, Palitz became agitated, accusing Ramirez of taking pictures of her. “Tell these people to stop taking pictures and asking for my name. It’s weird and creepy,” she protested.
Not every applicant skated through. The team behind Frank’s Chop Shop wanted the committee’s approval for wine/beer licenses at Pike Street Fish Fry (122 Ludlow) and Via Trubinali (124 Ludlow). A couple of residents spoke out against the twin restaurants, saying the block is already overburdened with bars and late night crowds (not to mention vermin). The operators collected 150 signatures from the surrounding buildings and highlighted their charity work in the neighborhood. The problem? This stretch is Ludlow is part of a “resolution area,” a section of the neighborhood saturated with liquor licenses and off limits to new bar/restaurant owners unless they can prove a “public benefit.”
CB3 member Herman Hewitt became exasperated during the discussion of these two applications. “Month after month,” he lectured, “operators come here in basic disregard for what the community is trying to do. Ask anyone in the neighborhood what they think of all of the bars on every block. Why do you keep coming here?” An attorney for the owners shot back, “we are entitled to be here and we are entitled to go to the State Liquor Authority.” Both applications were rejected.
Two other notes. A manager of Spitzer’s Corner outlined plans to take over the restaurant from current owner Rob Shamlian. He was quizzed about the establishment’s past citations for serving liquor to minors and argued that “we were initially not ready for the set-ups (police raids) and task forces.” The transfer was approved. And DBGB prevailed in its quest for a sidewalk cafe license (a city hearing happens tomorrow).