The owners of a large new restaurant and bar at 106 Rivington Street prevailed at Community Board 3’s liquor licensing committee last night, but the battle is not over yet. A divided vote (6-4) means another contentious debate is likely when the full board convenes October 23.
On one side last night: Jose Rodriguez and Robert Payne, who are opening a multi-level Latin-themed restaurant in a four story tenement across the street from the Hotel on Rivington. They were pitted against residents, many of them part of a new block association, LES Dwellers, who say the neighborhood’s nightlife scene is out of control.
While CB3’s SLA Committee is often sympathetic to the concerns of residents weary of late night crowds and noise, last night another factor ended up being decisive. Board members such as Herman Hewitt and Bernard Marti, longtime Lower East Side residents, highlighted the fact that the applicants (operators of a chain of neighborhood bodegas) are local business owners who were born and raised in the community and have been investing in the LES for many years. Their argument: it would be unfair to deny the application when so many other restaurant/nightlife operators with no community ties are given the go-ahead for liquor licenses. Among those vouching for the concept was Shalom Eisner of Eisner Brothers Sporting Goods on Essex Street, who said Jose Rodriguez had proven himself as a hard-working businessman who gives back to the neighborhood.
Other board members disagreed, however, since 106 Rivington is located in a “resolution area,” a zone declared by CB3 to be over-saturated with bars. While there is no moratorium on new licenses, board policies state that only applicants who prove a “public benefit” and widespread community support should be approved. Those voting “no” contended that the 106 Rivington proposal did not cross the necessary threshold.
In the end, the operators agreed to close the restaurant at 2 a.m. on weekends (4 a.m. had originally been requested) on the condition that they could come back to the board in a year-and-a-half to ask for extended hours. It was standing room only at last night’s meeting — lots of passionate debate on both sides. We’ll have more details later.