Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Last night's CB3 recap: Residents 1, Bar Owners 0

Last Thursday, I wrote about the next CB3/SLA meeting... held last night.... For residents on the northern stretch of Avenue A who are tired of a neighborhood over-saturated with bars, there were reasons for for concern. On the original docket (I believe Forbidden City was a scratch):

-- El Camion (El Camion III Inc), 194 Ave A (trans/op) (The Raven)
-- Percy's (Steelbar 180 Inc), 210-212 Ave A (trans/op) (Al Diwan)
-- MBM Lounge Inc, 212 Ave A (trans/op) (Forbidden City)
-- Corp to be Formed, 503-505 E 12th St (trans/op)

Plus, the popular Westville at 11th Street is applying for a sidwalk cafe license...

Due to work commitments, I was unable to attend last night's meeting... The Lo-Down was there. As they report: "Westville Restaurant’s sidewalk cafe license was rejected on the grounds that Avenue A is already overburdened with bars and late night crowds."

Jill was there too. Here's what she had to say at Blah Blog Blah ...

Tonight's Community Board 3 SLA Committee meeting was possibly historic. The Upper Avenue A residents had such a strong turnout, and Dolores' pink signs made a dramatic impact when 24 people held them up to the astonishment of the room. Even the committee members were taking photos.


But signs are one thing, getting something done is another. And victory was the word of the evening. The northern part of Avenue A has been under siege by an incredible influx of bars, and tonight three more were on the agenda, plus a sidewalk cafe license. The end result, which is often a testament to stamina more than brains, was that nobody got their license approvals tonight, and one of the three bars withdrew their application in the face of so much opposition.

Jill goes on to discuss her conflict on this issue... She loves bars and restaurants and going out. But. Enough is enough.

"There has come a moment in the past few years where the tipping point was reached, and the number of bars has outnumbered everything else. Instead of the diverse place I've lived for so long, our little streets have become a mecca of nightlife, a Temple Bar or Bourbon Street zone that is on the verge of being truly unlivable. 19 bars within 500 feet simply have to be enough to choose from."

Thanks to Jill for attending and quickly writing this up...

More on this as the day continues...Here is Eater's coverage.... and perhaps more from The Lo-Down... and maybe Fork in the Road?

For more on the nightlife discussion....

Avenue A, 9:13 p.m., May 8 (read the 68 comments) .... "Another noisy bar" slated for Avenue A; actually, make that several noisy bars, perhaps


Shawn said...

I am so proud of my neighbors and the Avenue A/LES community. Just bursting with pride. It's like 1988 all over again, er, well not really but close enough.

As a long-time resident of North Avenue A, I was beside myself with anger when I saw "Destination" and "Superdive" open.

I live above Westville and get along with the owners quite well, however Saturday night I lost it when 6 patrons sat campfire-style in front of my door. Imagine this - they blockaded the door so I could not EXIT MY OWN BUILDING.

I don't blame Westville as much as I blame people who have no !@#$ idea how to act when they are in the city. Move the !@#$ out of the way or go find another restaurant. It's just food for crying out loud.

Sounds like CB3 is gettin' the picture. Few down, few more to go, see you at the next CB3.

RyanAvenueA said...

Oh man, wish I could have stayed to see all the pink signs up. After listening to the Freeman's fiasco (which was a little tense at times) the guys applying for the sidewalk cafe for a non-existent business was hilarious. Having a business license and applying for a liquor license under different names, NOT actually having a business, and then being surprised when they wouldn't give them a sidewalk license. Hilarious. Best was when the "personal representative" of Buon Gusto's owner (hey nice ascot by the way!) said he missed his son's chorus concert to be there, so he was rightfully indignant that CB3 wouldn't hear him out. Had to leave after that, but wanted to show some support for my upper AveA neighbors.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

@Shawn - I hope you called the cops, because that's what you gotta do. Those people were trespassing and blocking your exit. I know I sound stodgy, but my own building has been vandalized and tenants harassed by people like this. Once they get used to behaving that way, the situation gets worse.

Jill said...

Goggla is right - there are good reasons register a complaint with 311 when there is a real violation of loitering or noise. It makes a difference when their license comes up for renewal or they apply for a sidewalk cafe or alteration and gives the community a documented reason to get the owner to sign stipulations agreeing to certain rules such as hours they keep the windows open, monitoring their sidewalks, type and volume of music etc.

One of the reasons the bar owners last night didn't get their applications through is they (and their lawyer) were dismissive of the idea of patrolling their sidewalks to keep the crowds dispersed. They couldn't get beyond "my bars (in other neighborhoods) never have crowds." Their answers were to the tune of "What, you think I should hire a full time doorman and make it look like a night club?" and "The sidewalk is not our responsibility."

With the big crowds we have come to see regularly on Northern Ave A, these issues are important to the residents, and that dismissive attitude revealed how little they understood the challenges they would be facing as bar owners here.

30 year East Village resident said...

baby with bathwater anyone? The old Raven space and the old Mundial space have sat vacant for years....while we all would like that perfect distinctive quiet 9-5 NY Mom and pop retailer to take those spaces, the truth is nobody has stepped up and made the investment. We now prefer vacancy to commerce?

I'm all for doing what can be done to make sure that the proposed food/drink establishments are focused more on food than folly, but the blanket rejectionism that seems to be gripping CB3 depresses me.

Westville, by almost all accounts is a good neighbor. Is a well managed sidewalk cafe a real detriment to neighborhood life? A gallery on Clinton wants a DJ maybe twice a month? This is destructive to the LES's character and quality of life?

I get annoyed by the mindless thuggery that can beset Avenue A sometimes but I don't think prohibition is a thoughtful or effective enforcement strategy or any kind of guarantor of quality of life.

Billy said...

She might be a lovely person outside of CB3 meetings (Lord knows they can fry an otherwise pleasant mood) but I'm not sure the chairwoman's constant carping really diffuses the tensions that inevitably flare at these things.

glamma said...

wow congratulations to all who attended and victored. that's awesome! isn't it ironic that all the offenders these days are of the upward mobility persuasion - the problems with these people far outweigh those with gangs, junkies, drunks, hustlers etc. a sign of the times.

Jill said...

To 30 year resident:

It would seem that there are dozens and dozens of empty storefronts, yet no other kinds of businesses are opening except bars (it feels like that anyways). The landlords think that they have an easy ticket to Richy Rich land if they can easily transfer a liquor license even after the building burned down 4 years ago, and charge double the rent a normal tenant would be able to pay.

We went from a few bars to 19 in this one area in the course of a couple of years. Bars don't create foot traffic during the day, only at night, disturbing the residents and changing the tenor of the block.

I would agree that the East village needs to find a way to attract new businesses, but is the solution only for bars? Are we that singular? do we not eat groceries and buy shoes?

These bars weren't summarily rejected without a lot of research about what they were intending to do in those spaces. We took time out of our days to meet with each bar owner and discuss, sometimes endlessly, what they had planned, to determine if this was going to be another stupid bar, or something that would make having a 20th liquor license that will attract more and more crowds as something we wanted, as residents of the street.

One thing these applicants have been doing is masquerading as restaurants. But what restaurant stays open until 4am? None. The "Cajun" food touted by the one on 12th Street turned out to have a menu of about 10 items, all of them fried. So their "kitchen" would be a deep fat fryer. Plus a green salad. One woman who came to the meeting had signed that bar's petition, she was so excited about a restaurant. Then she found out the truth about what they were going to be, and she was pissed off about being misled. It was purposeful, on the advice of his lawyer that he represent himself as a restaurant, not a bar. When one committee member asked if they would reconsider as a restaurant that closes at midnight, they said no.

If a real restaurant put in a proposal, like Northern Spy or Westville, I don't think anybody would protest too heartily, only enough to get stipulations to ensure that they stay a restaurant and not turn into a bar.

Let's not forget that somehow a bookstore with a beer and wine license turned into SuperDive while nobody was paying attention.

The problem with Westville isn't that nobody likes them, I eat there all the time actually. It's that the block has become incredibly congested and they haven't done anything to create the impression that it is "well run" as you suggested. Their clientelle block the sidewalk, and 20 tables on that narrow street would make it worse. They rejected their proposal because they didn't meet the minimum sidewalk requirements of footage to have the seats they were proposing, and they had shown zero concern for keeping their sidewalk clear. And have you seen the bicycles parked there? And when the kids get out of school, the streets are filled. One tenant brought photos to show how congested it gets. Many tenants from that block were at the meeting saying that they have to walk in the street into traffic and the bus stop because they can't get past.

These are real issues, that had thought behind them. Please don't think that 24 people spent over six hours suffering through a Community Board meeting because they are chronic complainers with nothing better to do. Each application is given so much time it is painful, really painful. It is the opposite of fun and I would rather be in a bar drinking. However I don't need 20 bars to choose from, there are plenty of spaces for everybody.

Anonymous said...

I don't care if the old Raven and Mundial spaces sit empty. I know the landlord at 505 has rejected other businesses for the old Mundial space because they can't get as much rent as they would get from a bar. So I don't feel sorry for the people who own these buildings. Even my landlord thinks the neighboring landlords are scumbags. That's when you know things are bad. They all want bars, and they're pushing out the mom and pop shops, the hair salons, the clothing stores and other businesses.

Anonymous said...

Jill - I've been reading these posts and have been generally annoyed by the generalizations about young people, etc, like everyone in their 20's can be lumped into one giant box of bankers/people who burn money/screamers etc. Usually it makes be believe that the people complaining are not legitimate, and they just like to complain. For example, the person who said that everyone who eats at Westville is a Yuppie: I eat there a lot and I thought I was the farthest thing from a yuppie. Who knows, maybe yuppies love burger and fries so it equals me being a yuppie?

Anyway, through your calm, rational explanation I finally understand the issues going on here, and I really respect what you are all doing for our community.

So thanks for taking the time to explain without the name calling, generalizations, etc. I completely agree with what you're saying and I really appreciate the respectful way you got your point across.

-Another east vil resident who doesn't want more bars now!

mimi said...

To Jill : it seems like not only you do a great job getting involved on these issues, but your view on the subject are really balanced and a pleasure to read!
I just still don't understand how come this area doesn't manage to attract many businesses other than bars?? How did this neighborhood get to the point where the rents are so sky-high that no-one else can get in? Don't the landlords who have empty storefronts realize after a while that the rents they're asking for are just too high?? And it seems like even the city doesn't get the point : after all they own those three stores around the Essex card shop on A which have been vacant for ages...

Jill said...

Thank you for saying such kind things. This has been a real eye opener for me. As I've said before I never imagined I would protest bars, and that was the sentiment of nearly everybody who came to the Community Board meeting too. You have to think that we aren't all nutty recluses who need to get laid and have nothing better to do, which is what so many anonymous and very mean commenters say.

Going around collecting signatures was really interesting. The people who told me that they want more bars, not fewer were ALWAYS under 25 and clearly had no stake in living here for more than a year or two. There weren't many of them, but those that said it fit the exact stereotype of the louts the people on these blogs are complaining about. Unfortunately for you intelligent, rational people under 25 you have some cohorts who don't make you look good. What was most disturbing was that they weren't interested in having a conversation about it - all they saw was an old lady, probably like their mother, who wants to limit their drinking. And I'm a young looking old lady :)

But the people who have settled here, have been here a while, or are serious graduate students or artists or whatever who want some quiet when studying, all spoke to me intelligently about how split they felt: they love the nightlife but find themselves suffering from the crowds and noise that they didn't expect. It is hard to reconcile those two things.

Jill said...

mimi- if anybody could ever understand the mind of a landlord, it will be a miracle!! None of it makes sense and I've yet to hear a rational answer to all the questions you raise. If you get one, please let us know!

Anonymous said...

Came here from a recent post linking back to this post. It certainly seems to me that Percy's and El Camion are fine neighbors so far.