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More on Today’s Approval of Soho House’s LES Liquor License

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As we reported earlier, Soho House has gotten the okay from the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to open a new club at 139 Ludlow St.  Here’s a more detailed account from today’s hearing at the SLA’s offices in Harlem.

139 Ludlow Street.  Photo courtesy: Soho House.
139 Ludlow Street. Photo courtesy: Soho House.

The decision effectively ends a battle that has spanned most of this year and pitted the global private members’ club against a group of neighborhood residents.  The ruling means Soho House can now begin a year-long project to restore a building it purchased in 2012.  Today the organization’s attorney intimated that Soho House is willing to work with local preservationists to secure landmark status for the 1930 property, which features a beautiful Gothic-style facade.

Dennis Rosen, the chairman of the State Liquor Authority grilled the lawyer, Donald Bernstein, and Soho House founder Nick Jones about the plans on Ludlow Street.  As a condition of the license, liquor will not be permitted in an outdoor portion of the proposed fifth floor roof deck.  Several residents who live in an adjacent building spoke out against the proposal.  Michael Zadorozny, a resident of the block since 1980, said he’d literally be able to reach out and touch the roof deck, which is about four feet from his bedroom window. “Our way of life is at stake,” he testified. He called the outdoor space a “recipe for disaster” and a potential assault on any semblance of normalcy.”

The testimony obviously resonated with the chairman. “It’s a huge concern to me,” he told the applicants. “I don’t think anyone should have to pay a price in terms of lifestyle… It’s a question of fundamental fairness in my view.”

Rofftop at 139 Ludlow St.
Rofftop at 139 Ludlow St.

In making his case for Soho House, Bernstein called the club a “unique, iconic brand” that would create a benefit for the community.  The Ludlow Street building is located in an area Community Board 3 has declared to be over-saturated with liquor permits (CB3 voted against the application).  The liquor authority requires applicants seeking licenses within 500 feet of three existing permits to prove an overriding public benefit.  He touted Soho House as a place where creative people can interact, where budding entrepreneurs can work and find support and where members can attend workshops and take part in cultural programming.  Bernstein, highlighting support from the Lower East Side BID, also talked up the club’s potential as a daytime destination that would benefit struggling local businesses. He told the commissioners that the club had agreed to donate a 4300 square foot space in the basement to the Educational Alliance, one of the oldest social services organizations on the LES.  Bernstein also said the club was “agreeable to working with a local organization to landmark the facade (we first reported about this effort yesterday). “It’s something we can help the community to achieve,” Bernstein said.

Soho House emphasized support from local residents and business owners; Meatball Shop owner Michael Chernow testified today, vouching for the organization’s dedication to nurturing young entrepreneurs.   Referring to opposition from the LES Dwellers, a neighborhood group, Bernstein said, “they do not speak for the community. They speak for themselves.”

Diem Boyd, founder of the LES Dwellers, talked only briefly.  She pointed out that local elected officials — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senator Dan Squadron and City Council member Margaret Chin — had all come out against the liquor application.  Another resident asserted that, in spite of Soho House’s claims, it is basically a night club and would attract throngs of late not revelers to an already congested neighborhood.  Dale Goodson, an East Village anti-bar activist, urged a denial from the SLA, saying he was worried that approval of the application would set a bad precedent for all of Community District 3.

Rosen grilled Bernstein on several issues. At one point he said, “you allege traffic (on Ludlow Street) won’t be burdensome.” But pointing out that the streets of the LES are narrow and that many people live in tenements, he suggested residents have good reason to be concerned.  In response, Bernstein said any use of the building (whether it’s Soho House or, say, a grocery store) would have some impact on the neighborhood.  Rosen also questioned Soho House about what he called relatively low membership fees ($1800 annually), suggesting that the club would be very dependent on robust food and liquor sales to turn a profit. “The concern I’m hearing” from residents, he said, is that the club would be “one more destination place… in an area where streets are being closed off due to the shear numbers of people.”  He asked about the club’s membership criteria, and wondered whether 20-something NYU students might want to join.  Would it really be possible to admit only artists and other creatives or would anyone with $1800 gain admittance?, Rosen asked.  Bernstein and Nick Jones said the clubs skew somewhat older and indicated that every effort is made to cultivate a creative spirit among members.

In the end, Rosen not only insisted on a “no-liquor” policy in the outdoor space, but said the doors to a glassed-in portion of the roof must remain closed at all times. The outdoor area must close by 6 p.m. each evening. The Soho House team said the enclosure would be sound-proof.  Bernstein asked whether the SLA would consider a wine-only license outside but Rosen rejected this idea. He left open the possibility that the agency might reconsider a couple of years after Soho House opens on Ludlow Street.

In a brief chat outside the SLA’s offices, Jones said he still hoped to win over opponents of Soho House.  The team, he said, might rethink the uses of the rooftop space in light of the SLA’s ruling.  Renovation of the building has not yet begun; it’s expected to take about a year before the club opens.



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  1. Quality of life is what you make of it, not what you depend on others to make of it…granted, the new entity involves liquor, but the business is spending money on a building that others aren’t willing to…

  2. in my mind the people who moved into rent stabilized apartments in a shitty crack den of a neighborhood because the apartment was cheap have a much diminished right to dictate to the community what is right and wrong for it. Enjoy your rent stabilized apartments in a shitty piss and alcohol filled dangerous ghetto of a neighborhood you would think would act more thankful about paying the same rent in a posh safe neighborhood. It just doesn’t make sense to ANYONE WITH A BRAIN. les dwellers please stop your atrocious destructive campaign against our community.

  3. And what about us who don’t live in rent stabilized apartments? How do we, or any community member, benefit from having a SoHo house? The median income is just shy of $40K, so realistically, the average resident can not afford a membership (unless we have a “creative soul,” according to Nick Jones). Even if we were admitted, how would paying for overpriced food and beverages in SoHo house help the local businesses flourish? I’d also like to understand your reasoning on how the SoHo House will make the neighborhood posh. If you live on this block, then you’re already aware that we have a lot of puke, piss, horse shit, and garbage to maneuver around every day; not sure how one building will revamp the LES. And if people do have a brain, then they’d agree that a safe and healthy neighborhood should always be a community’s top priority. Adding more liquor licenses and increasing the number of night-time patrons is not the solution.

  4. Are the new owners going to clean up the puddles of puke that follow these establishments?
    That’s a quality of life issue that you can do nothing about. Maybe she should call them ponds of puke and it all goes away. take a walk in hells square on a sunday morning it’s worse than dodging dog droppings

  5. Our community? How long have you lived in the lower. I’m sure the poor were there way before you. They paved the way for all the hipsters and elitist and entitleist to move in. The Lower has way too many bars.

  6. Joe, the next time someone sneezes on you in the subway, I want to see what you make of it. Our city has become more and more dense, so every individual’s quality of life is greatly effected by those around them. On the weekend at 4am when parents can’t get they chilidren to sleep because of the loud yelling on the street below, can they call you to see what they should make of it?

  7. All I want for the neighborhood is for all its residents and business owners to feel like they have a safe and healthy living and working environment. In short, this includes more reputable owners opening up establishments that don’t just cater to the night-time crowd. For example, Russ & Daughter’s is opening a day-time cafe that will server liquor. This is great for the LES! Having more businesses like bookstores, clothing boutiques, galleries, and even restaurants open from breakfast through dinner would help promote the day-time business that this neighborhood desperately needs. We already have enough places that cater to the nightlife party crowd, so why add more like Soho House? It’ll just increase the amount of nighttime foot traffic, and these small streets can’t handle it. In addition to that, we have extremely bad operators in the neighborhood who have no respect for the residents. When issues with businesses arise, the owners refuse to work with the neighbors, and they also refuse to enforce their patrons to be respectable for those who live here. Those types of establishments will always receive pushback from the community, and they are.

    As the area is now, we have way too many liquor licenses than legally acceptable, and many of these places over serve their patrons. When those drunk patrons leave the establishment, they become the residents’ burden. The drunks yell, litter, and vomit and piss everywhere.This goes on all night, and as late at 5 a.m. on the weekends–an experience you get to miss since you don’t live here. Try walking a dog at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night; it is hell because you’re just constantly harassed by drunks who take up the entire sidewalk. And then try walking that dog early in the morning. Together we have to maneuver through the mess left behind. (I have seriously cleaned up so much vomit off my buildings front door and entry way that I’ve lost count. I also see many boutiques wash down piss and vomit left on their doors every weekend.) And don’t forget about the rise in crime! This is not a safe nor a healthy environment for the residents or business owners.

    Some other things you mentioned that I’d like to address… Posh neighborhoods to me would be more like TriBeCa or UES right off of Central Park. Despite all the luxury companies opening up, I don’t feel like a “posh” neighborhood would put up with what the LES does. The amenities that you listed (the BID cleanup crew, the lampposts, etc.), while better than nothing, unfortunately do not equate to a blissful, “posh” neighborhood.

    Also, your assumption that all LES residents live in rent stabilized apartments is inaccurate. Many of us, including myself, pay market value for apartments, and I would also agree with the “legacy renters” that this area is hell. Many residents have offered a nights stay on their couches so that people can really experience the LES. I highly encourage you to take one of them up on the offer. Maybe somewhere near Hair of the Dog and Tiny Fork? You redacted your comment which said anyone with a brain knows that Soho House is a good thing. I say, anyone with a brain knows that another liquor license with a nightlife driven business plan is not beneficial for the neighborhood.

  8. Do you know why they pay these low rents? They had the gonads to live there when no one wanted to, because they started the process to get the drug dealers off the street. They pave the way for all these hipsters to move in and now the price they pay is drunks on the street all night long, puke in the street all day long, fights between drunks and all the noice that accompanies the multitude of drinking establishments. Not to mention the urine and horse droppings all over the place. Best but not least the rents are way too high now and the preassure they face on a daily basis from lanlords to get out. So thank you but atleast the crack dealers had respect that’s something that these drunks that roam the street now lack.

  9. The people who preceded the night-life boom raised children here, went to school here, built businesses here, fell in love here, went to work here. There was a vigorous and unique arts scene here (btw The Tenement Museum was found in 1988 – opening in 1992-well before the recent influx). In short people lived their lives. This recent incarnation is not a boon to many of us. We didn’t want a corporate “beauty make-over” with “nice lampposts” or more garbage cans-though yes,having basic city services like consistent trash pick up, police protection, etc would have been great but that often doesn’t happen in poorer communities (I’m sure you must know that?). No one objected to a night-life or the local bars who had a stake in the community. No one objected to some people being drunk (we know our history). But becoming a “destination site” is a very very different thing. It robs an entire community of agency to decide its present and its future. And no, markets are absolutely not what should decide things for human beings – that ludicrous way of thinking is not working out well for the planet or for us. We have to be more in charge than that!
    As to what a real boon would look like: resources for local schools, jobs that allow people to build families and work towards the future, better health care systems, creative small businesses that aren’t reliant on “connections” to wealth to get started, green spaces and parks, resources that actually help build a good life for community members: a community that is rich in diverse options. There are so many possibilities for small businesses here but if you keep giving liquor licenses, landlords keep jacking up the rents so no other non-wealthy start-ups can be here. It is at the very least a failure of the imagination.

    And, fyi ,Our newly “posh” neighborhood is still not a “safe” place for women re: rape. It is vitally important to know that.

  10. The soho house really got the ball rolling in the meatpacking as far as unprecedented douchebaggery goes. Not that they’re entirely to blame for the pageant of conspicuous consumption that area has become but their endorsement of the area is clearly an indicator of what’s to follow. Affluent eurotrash and fashion industry 30-40somethings tend to be less disruptive than the 20s whooo girls and Bros who dont know or care about how sound amplifies and carrys in the streets like in desert canyons, discharge of bodily fluids is generally frowned on by club member types and the day jobs most have to support the soho house lifestyle isn’t conducive to Tuesday night 3AM benders. If you just don’t like rich douchbags, good neighbors or not, fair enough but if quality of life issues are really what were talking about we could do a lot worse.

  11. As a rent regulated tenant I can say that we put up with a lot of BS from both the Landlord and the market rate tenants who with their sense of entitlement ,keep us up half the night yelling and screaming outside our windows,not to mention those neighbors in the building who also keep us up half the night as well with their all night party life styles.I can not count how many times our Landlord’s Agent has asked us to leave in the last year.We stay,because we do not make a six figure income and many of us have been here for decades including myself.Ask yourself this,is the quality of life better now then we had the drug dealers roaming the streets?I think not.We have gone from bad to worse!No more bars or clubs!

  12. Frances…re-read what I wrote…I didn’t write just because the entity is spending money hence quality of life will be better…quality of your life depends on how you make of it…not what you assume others have to make of it for you so that you can be happy…not as interdependent as you think…no one forcing you to do or accept any of this…you do have options…and this entity is willing to spend money on the building…are you?

  13. You have options… Someone sneezing on me is not a quality of life issue…that’s someone just asking for a can of whoop azz… You choosing to where you live with your children is your choice… Give me your number…I’ll call to checkup on you…

  14. Businesses are to cleanup the sidewalk in front of their businesses, so if it’s dirty, blame the businesses… These are quality of life issues that you can control…you have options… Get a hose or move…

  15. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges,…” “Choosing to [live] where you live” is an interesting concept in a city that has the highest wealth inequality in a nation of obscene inequality…just sayin’..

  16. you”re right I have the option to fight for where I’ve been living all my life. You obviously don’t live here you just throw up here on friday and saturday nights. take your puke home and the horse shit thats all over the neighborhood on saturday and sunday mornings. another quality of life issue. maybe you should come and pick up the horse crap and clean the puke after all it’s people like you that cause it.

  17. Wow! Can you be more insensitive to the needs of the LES community?

    Thank you for enlightening us all on how the “quality of life depends on how you make of it” You clearly have no idea what you are talking about

  18. What makes you think I’m not from the LES? You bozos truly think that life depends on how others can make it good for you…who do you think you are to be so entitled to have that? How great the quality of YOUR life depends on how you make of it…no ifs ands or buts about it… You do have the option of moving…

  19. Unfortunately, you’re blind to the changes around you… If you have the time to fight…then fight…glad fighting makes you happy… You should do more for the LES then just complaining about what you think you’re entitled to… Work harder or move further…

  20. I’m not blind to the changes. All the change are for he worst. This used to be a quiet place to live now it’s full of alchy’s that throw up all over the place, dudes fighting at night and horse dump mix with vomit in the morning for all to step over. Maybe that’s the life your used to but that’s not how I live so yeah I have options to get the vermin out of my neighborhood. The only changes that have happened is that the drug dealer was replaced by a bar and now the drug dealing happens indoors with all the hipsters and elitist. Leave the neighborhood that you have lived in all your life so that the elitist and hipsters have a place to play. I have lived here since 73 and back then you would have been scared to come into this area. sorry buddy but i don’t need any hipster pigs or elitist pissing or throwing up in front of my building.You talk about entitled what make you entitled to turn a quiet neighborhood into a pig pen.

  21. Being “entitled” to an opinion is not the same as being entitled to stay and pay “affordable” rents just because you decided to overstay your welcome…buy the building then rent out to a green grocer…but I bet if they don’t pay the rent, let’s see how you think they’re still entitled as their landlord…yes, speaking of “entitled”…LOL!!!!!!!!

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