At last night’s Community Board 3 meeting, there was more drama surrounding Mason Dixon, the always controversial-now defunct bar at 133 Essex Street. In the end, the board voted (31-3, with 1 abstention) to approve nightlife operator Matt Levine’s proposal to take over the troubled spot.
Now the State Liquor Authority must decide whether to grant a liquor license for a still-to-be named restaurant. Residents living in the apartments above Mason Dixon, who are suing current owner Rob Shamlian, strongly objected to the new establishment’s proposed 4 a.m. closing time.
Last night’s debate was similar to the discussion that took place during an SLA Committee hearing earlier in the month. We won’t rehash the whole Mason Dixon saga here (you can read our previous coverage for background).
There were, however, some new wrinkles during the full board meeting. At one point, David McWater, a CB3 member and bar owner, rose to his feet in an angry confrontation with members of 133 Essex’s board of directors. The question at hand: did residents who bought apartments know beforehand that there was going to be a bar featuring a mechanical bull on the ground floor of their building? The residents said “no.” Raising his voice and speaking over condo board president Wesley Gaus, McWater asked, “did you find out before or after” purchasing an apartment? Although his explanation was mostly drowned out, Gaus said he and other residents had not been aware of the bar until it was too late to do anything about it.
CB3 member David Crane introduced a resolution requiring the new restaurant to close at 2 a.m. Levine said he was unwilling to reduce the hours because it would mean “limiting the asset” he was purchasing from Shamlian. The community board generally supports owners who wish to transfer their licenses when selling bars or restaurants, so long as they have run responsible businesses. But given Mason Dixon’s legal troubles (including underage drinking violations), Crane suggested Shamlian had at least partially forfeited this privilege. The resolution, however, was defeated.
McWater argued that the 7th Precinct had unfairly targeted Mason Dixon and that, as a result, the community board should discount the violations. “This captain (David Miller, 7th precinct executive officer) has done, probably 30 nuisance abatements in three months. If all the students get a F, it’s not their fault. It’s the teacher,” he said.
Shamlian settled with the NYPD several weeks ago, after being shut down by the precinct. He chose not to reopen Mason Dixon, he said, fearing that the bar would continue to be a target of the nightlife crackdown. Levine says he wants to open a neighborhood-centric, full-service restaurant featuring a menu honoring the Lower East Side’s immigrant past.