At last night’s Community Board 3 meeting, City Council member Rosie Mendez took a few moments to address the controversy surrounding a new restaurant coming to 106 Rivington Street. The State Liquor Authority will soon rule on an application from operators Jose Rodriguez and Robert Payne for a full bar. Members of the LES Dwellers neighborhood group oppose the permit, saying Rivington Street is already overburdened with nightlife establishments. In a close vote, CB3 chose not to support the application, although it did sign off on a beer/wine permit for the Latin-style restaurant.
Mendez told community board members she knows some of the people involved in the new business and they have asked for her support. Mendez did not indicate which way she was leaning but as an aside said, “I am disturbed by some of the rhetoric (surrounding this application) calling people racist.” Mendez was referring to comments that followed an article in support of the applicants by LES documentarian Clayton Patterson in the Villager. Some of the comments took aim in a personal way at CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer, CB3 Chairperson Gigi Li and Diem Boyd, the leader of LES Dwellers. “Being against bars doesn’t make you racist,” Mendez said, “and I think that kind of talk needs to stop.”
Mendez represents Council District 2, which is mostly centered above East Houston Street. Margaret Chin represents City Council District 1, where the new restaurant is located. Matt Viggiano, who works for Council member Chin, echoed Mendez’s sentiments last night concerning the injection of race into the liquor license debate. Chin wrote a letter to the SLA in opposition to the application at 106 Rivington.