Wednesday, June 24, 2009

CB3 didn't approve a liquor license for Superdive; "a nice neighborhood Internet café-bookstore" becomes a bar with keg service at tables

In previous posts about Superdive, I wondered how the SLA/CB3 could have approved such a boozy concept (mix your own drinks, keg service at tables, etc.) ... Well, it turns out they didn't. Check out the minutes from the May meeting. (Item 4 below from the May 11 SLA meeting.)



The owners of Superdive were denied the renewal of a full on-premise liquor license (click on the image for a better view).... in part, because the owners "did not appear before Community Board #3" ... and "the location has been closed for several months." (Actually, Rapture Cafe & Books, the previous occupant here at 200 Avenue A, closed in April 2008)



Regardless, the State Liquor Authority has the final say in these matters. Meanwhile, according to the SLA Web site, Superdive has Rapture's existing license, which is effective through April 2011.



Rapture owner Joe Birdsong's name is on the SLA licensing information, operating as trade name Superdive. Birdsong was interviewed for a Dec. 28, 2006, article in the Observer about the cafe's opening:

Proprietor Joe Birdsong said the 2,200-square-foot space (formerly occupied by the Clockwork Orange-themed Korova Milk Bar)... is still awaiting his community-approved liquor license, which he hopes to receive once the State Liquor Authority's present moratorium on new licenses expires next month.

For now, patrons can sip coffee or tea as they browse the cafe's prerequisite bookshelves.

Mr. Birdsong, who, in order to some day sell alcohol, pledged to operate primarily as a bookstore, said he has, in fact, sold some books, particularly back on Christmas Day.


The Observer had more on Rapure on Jan. 7, 2007.

Rapture owner Joe Birdsong expects to receive his license to sling suds any day now, as the State Liquor Authority’s four-month-long freeze on processing such permits expired with the change in the calendar year.

The bohemian-style café’s entry into the booze business won’t technically exacerbate what many S.L.A. critics have denounced as a citywide proliferation of liquor licenses in recent years. Mr. Birdsong is simply taking the existing license from the location’s prior tenant, the Clockwork Orange–themed Korova Milk Bar. Keeping the license at that address was of particular concern to the building’s landlord, Mr. Birdsong said: "The owner doesn’t want to lose the value attached to it."

Not that Rapture’s ownership would choose to emphasize the alcoholic content of its business plan, penned by Mr. Birdsong. In fact, his proposal barely mentions the venue’s "extensive and unique beer and wine menu," even though his pending permit would grant him the freedom to serve Jägermeister shots or far stiffer drinks, if he wanted to. A wise strategy. Given the city’s current bar-wary climate, prospective restaurateurs and tavern operators are subject to an ever-increasing degree of scrutiny.

Even a self-described "nice little neighborhood Internet café–bookstore–performance space" is not immune, as Mr. Birdsong found out when he appeared this past September before local Community Board 3, a panel that specifically singled out Avenue A as a bad example of area bar sprawl. In order to garner community approval for his own "limited bar," Mr. Birdsong had to promise in writing that his proposed literary hangout would not someday morph into a troublesome, boozy nightspot.

Specifically, he was required to submit a "signed notarized stipulation" that Rapture would "operate as a bookstore with the service of alcoholic beverages incidental to its operation as a bookstore" and "with the predominant space being used for bookshelves," according to the minutes of that meeting.


Whoa. So, what just happened here?

Meanwhile, a few people were inside Superdive last night for what looked like a private party...

12 comments:

Jeremiah Moss said...

someday, someone's actually going to crack down on these bait-and-switch operations.

L'Emmerdeur said...

An INTERN? WTF?

Let me guess, the intern is a cat...

esquared said...

Super work by the intern. Is he/she a "free blogger" in exchange for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and social cache.

But seriously, what a manipulative douches of owners they have there.

Bowery Boogie said...

sounds about right. good research, dude.

Jeremiah Moss said...

can i be your intern?

BaHa said...

No, Jeremiah, you already have a grownup blog. I get to be the intern!

EV Grieve said...

Well, I removed the "research by the intern of EV Grieve" line at the end... Don't want it to distract from what's going on here. (Uh, too late?) It was just a hat tip to someone who helped me go through the CB3 minutes last night. Seemed funny at the time!

(And BaHa — you're hired!)

prodigal son said...

Good investigation. I think the community boards get too much attention, they are appointed and only advisory. The SLA makes the decisions. The community boards seem to be there to take the heat over screwups like this.

Jeremiah Moss said...

wait a minute...does this mean you're not accepting intern applications at this time?

BaHa said...

I would be the world's oldest intern...

Anonymous said...

I've been following the reports of this place the same way I might look at reports of a horrible accident. I dread the hoards of bellowing, shreiking idiots who will flock to this moronic theme bar. I can't believe I'm saying this but I'm starting to miss the junkies and muggers.

Jill said...

I knew it I knew it I knew it. I've been wondering for a long time how much clout CB3 had with their liquor license reviews. I've been unable to navigate the SLA site to figure it all out - every bar I tried to find came up blank. Thank you for doing it. So it is now clear, the CB3 rulings have absolutely no meaning, a total waste of time.

(I'm glad you got hold of the May schedule, but yes they were on the docket and I missed it.)