Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Community Board 3 rejects proposal for restaurant-bar-performance space at 34 Avenue A; here comes Subway?

By a vote of 27-5, according to Shawn Chittle who was at the meeting. (Another reader said it was 25-7.) In any event, the State Liquor Authority requires Community Board approval for liquor license transfers. This was for a new license within a resolution area. We'll have more on last night's debate and vote later.

Meanwhile, what's next for the former Mo Pitkin's space? The CB3/SLA committee voted down a similar proposal from Todd Patrick and company in March.

There is always that rumored (and effective scare tactic) fast-food joint. And fast food has been mentioned coming here if operators couldn't secure a liquor license. The building is for sale. (A commenter claims there is a draft lease on the table for a Subway here. )

Last June, EV Italian eatery guru Frank Prisinzano said that the landlord of the former Graceland space on Avenue A and Second Street had four prospective tenants: Frank's fast-food Italian joint, a bank, a 7-Eleven and a bank.

CB3 rejected his plans for Raguboy last June. The space at Avenue A and Second Street remains vacant.

Is it better vacant than a restaurant or bar?

Previously on EV Grieve:
Phil Hartman bringing a 'performance venue' back to former Mo Pitkin's space

[Updated] Bringing 'the tradition of the old Knitting Factory and Tonic' to 34 Avenue A

Because you want to know more about the plans for 34 Avenue A


Anonymous said...

Very reliable sources say that 34 Ave A will become a Subway sandwich shop. I'm told there is even a draft lease on the table already.

Thank you to all the "community activists" who are inadvertently supporting big business and corporate profits!

Anonymous said...

This whole thing always seemed really New Brooklyn Douchey. Please keep this over on Bedford.

Brian Van said...

Well, no one benefits from long-term vacant spaces. At least SOME people would benefit from a bar/restaurant/music venue.

Can bars be disruptive? Sure. But all that time Mo Pitkins was open and busy, nothing absolutely terrible happened. So that's no excuse to deny a similar concept.

I've liked all the proposals they've had for this space, and even though I don't live across the street, I do live within walking distance. (A long walk, but...) The way I see it, 34 Avenue A's neighbors are denying the rest of us a chance - not a certainty, but a chance - to experience better food and nightlife venues, not because they can prove it'll be disruptive but because they say they think there are enough bars around and they're intolerant of more of them.

There's clearly bigger problems for that block, which has some bars but a lot of vacant spaces otherwise. I don't know if letting more liquor licenses into the area does anything to hurt or help the problem that there's a lack of anything else (and a ton of vacant spaces). It's just a shame to see these cranky neighbors put all their energy into fighting bars (that some of their neighbors will actually enjoy - not just "B&T") and zero energy into coming up with a solution for the other problems. Maybe they should use the liquor license issue as bait to bring in some more comprehensive commercial development? I.E. you can run a bar in the Mo Pitkins space if you open a bike store across the street... or you can run a restaurant in the old Gracefully space as long as you maintain a daytime cafe/bakery, too. I'm just thinking out loud here. But my thinking is more productive than their screeching.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE vacant places!!!! Keeps the area more calm and classic feelin'. Teaches the landlords they shouldn't be charging such a disgusting amount and will eventually make prices more decent instead of think this is the UWS.

Anonymous said...

The board should consider giving out "tentative" liquor licenses. In other words - give the bar 6 months to prove they will not be a problem. If in 6months time they are a huge problem, then yank the license. This will also make those opening the spaces think twice before opening in that they will not want to pour in money to a joint that could be yanked of its liquor license in 6months.

I think in general people are going to complain complain complain unless it's a retail store that's not a chain. The thing is, retail stores right now are not money-making businesses so even if a retail space opened, it would most likely shut down in a year and we'd be back at square one.

Billy said...

This wrongheaded decision, in my opinion, represents the tipping point where CB3 went from protecting the neighborhood from gentrification to speeding up its march toward suburban irrelevance.

Here is an independent restaurant and live music space with performances curated by a man the Times said was keeping the spirit of much-missed local venues CBGB and Tonic alive (and owned by the founder of HOWL) being instantly dismissed by some OLD cranks who deem a performance space "for tourists" while offering NO suggestions for what constitutes "retail for residents."

These EV-loving locals apparently prefer the address remain a vacant eyesore on the block OR a national Slurpee chain OR soulless bank chain. Meanwhile, let's review the new spots that have sailed through CB3's arthritic clutches in the last few years: Superdive, Billy Hurricanes, The 13th Step, U2 Karaoke...

Keepin' it real, CB3! Now SCRAM and move to Westchester!

Anonymous said...

First of all this is not a transfer of a liquor license. It would be a new license in a resolution area.

Nobody thinks that having a music performance space is a bad idea, just not here. Not now.

The nightlife establishment members on the CB3/SLA committee, bar/lounge/restaurant owners have for years proliferated licenses throughout the EV/LES helping their friends to open businesses, opening more businesses for themselves because of greed and $$$. You have to understand that these people are business people who have an asset, a liquor license which can be sold, so they want to make their asset as valuable as possible. If a particular establishment is on a block that has a lot of other nightlife then it is going to make their business more valuable. It's kind of like owning a house or apartment in a trendy area, take for example our area, then the property value increases.

These people are the ones who lobbied for these bad business in the first place. The nightlife establishment kind of operates like the old Bush Cheney administration where Haliburton gets a contract to provide the food to US troops in Iraq. Furthermore, people in the nightlife industry have ties to real estate investment and development as tourism is a key factor in them raking in the dough.

If Todd P. wants to open a music venue with a bar and restaurant he should try to take over a business that already has a license. This whole proposal was done in a real shady way, and to make it sound like the people who live in the area don't want culture is wrong. It is also wrong to make it seem like activism is a bad thing. I have to side with the people. Thanks a lot Grieve for showing the photo of the musicians at University of The Streets.

GrievingToo said...

I was at the meeting last night and at times, with the belligerent shouting and accusations, it resembled those Tea Party town halls. Who has time for compromises and reasoned discussions? Matlock is on!

Some SLA board members clearly thought that Phil Hartman's sale of Mo Pitkins to the Aces and Eights guy was something he did knowing the outcome. It was clearly a mistake, as he admits, but it felt personal to them and I doubt they ever let him start a new restaurant in the neighborhood.

So now we'll be stuck with a chain restaurant. Or a nail salon. Or a bank. That won't stop the party people running up and down the street, but I guess it'll feel more like Florida for the cranky old-before-their-time people who've forgotten why they initially came to NYC.

EV Grieve said...

@Anon 10:23

You're right about the transfer. My mistake here. I struck out that sentence.

Anonymous said...

I would love a Subway sandwich shop in this location. One of the only affordable fast-food options in the city. Also, they are franchises, and many of them are owned by immigrants to the city, so you are supporting local people who work hard. I would rather a Subway than a bar any day!

Anonymous said...

This proposal is in the worst possible location:

It is across the street from Susan Stetzer's house.

Don't kid yourself that there was anything else wrong with this application.

Shawn said...

I was personally on the fence for a long time about 34 Ave A. Like one speaker said, 100% of us residents are for the arts. Our difference of opinion with others cost/benefit ratio when full liquor is involved.

But after the 4am license was announced; after not one but two bars were planned for it; and after the silly proposition of a "50% discount for locals" was announced, it was easy to oppose it.

As I sat watching the CB3 proceedings, I was struck with deja vu upon hearing the incredibly loud "WHOOOHOOO!!!" cheers by the supporters of 34 Ave A whenever someone spoke in support.

Then it hit me. These are the same "WHOOHOOO!" screams heard on Avenue A at 4AM every weekend by the bridge and tunnel crowd who have all but ruined the EV on the weekends, and for whom have made opening a bar around here (necessarily) difficult.

So whatever last chance this venue had was lost when dozens of screaming banshees reminded the Community Board of what kind of supporters this space would cater too, and what they'd soon be hearing in more abundance.

In a final, laughable note, one supporter said "Mercury Lounge only books acts you see on MTV" I almost spit up my water... it really doesn't get any funnier (and more clueless) than that.

Another drama-filled, emotional roller coaster ride! No better way to spend a Tuesday night!

Anonymous said...

Cool, enjoy your subway sandwiches everyone. You only have yourselves to blame.

Anonymous said...

Over 45 local people turned out to support this project, to the opposition's 35.

Who can remember any applicant demonstrating that much support before?

It's certainly more difficult to get supporters to attend a tedious Community Board hearing than it is to get the old cranks to simply come out like they always do, especially when the District Manager rallies her elderly co-op neighbors with scare tactics and horror stories.

The resolution area language says that applicants should be considered if they demonstrate public benefit (find me a liquor license application that has stronger cultural credentials than this one did), and if the proposal shows substantial support from the surrounding community.

Both of those criteria were obviously met and this application should have been approved.

Anonymous said...

Screaming banshees? I was there an d that tall tale is certainly revisionist history. These supporters simply clapped at the end of speeches to demonstrate their numbers.

The opposition booed and hissed and generally displayed far more angry heads.

Anonymous said...

I was truly embarrassed by my neighbors last night. The meeting was pathetic.

I too live within a block of 34 Ave A and hate noise, but if ANYONE actually listened or knew anything about the space, they would realize it's not catering to douchebags and fratboys.

Let's all remember, these CB3 clowns approved Superdive, Billy Hurricanes, The 13th Step, U2 Karaoke - so... as a result of bad businesses being opened, good ones will be blocked?

PS: If you want peace and quiet, maybe an urban environment isn't for you, and it's time to move to New Jersey, Westchester, or Long Island.

While I hate the noise, I accept it's the nature of living in one of the densest cities in the USA - when I can't take the noise, you better believe I will leave.

CB3 = what a joke

Anonymous said...

when did Community Board 3 become a dictatorship of District Manager Susan Stetzer?

The political machinations against this humble and well-intentioned proposal were shameful.

I wish these petty Machiavellis would spend half as much energy to support the arts in general as they wasted opposing this thoughtful proposal with a liquor license application.

Since when does food and drink have no redeeming value?

AC said...

I call BS on the Subway. This would be the biggest location Subway shop ever. All the EV Subways are small spaces.

Billy said...

Here here! "CB3 Rejects Piney Woods, Paves Way for a Fast Food Chain, Bank, or Bank"

Bowery Boy said...

While it's great to read such vigorous debate, if I had a vote, I'd leave it to whoever lives upstairs. If I know anything from living on the Bowery, they're the ones who'll be most effected.

Unfortuately, those in support of this venue should have considered their position long ago, cuz it's all the past bad decisions that are most effecting this location. No one can deny that the EV has gone beyond its share of 'resolution area'-creating establishments. When even the complainers consider basic peace & quiet a bridge too far, the supporters truly have a problem.

Too bad that the Horse Trade people can't move their Under St. Marks theater into this location, instead of trying to buy the crappiest building in the neighborhood. Their theater is far quieter than music, and no booze, yet still cultural & local.

Anonymous said...

​In somewhat predictable but still discouraging news, Community Board 3 last night rejected Todd Patrick and Phil Hartman's proposal for a restaurant/performance space at 34 Avenue A.
In March, Patrick and Hartman proposed turning the former Mo Pitkin's space into a Mexican restaurant/avant-garde performance venue. After CB3 struck down their plans, the pair returned to the drawing board. Last week, they appeared before CB3's SLA committee to make the case for Piney Woods, a Southern restaurant and performance space. The committee was split in its decision, and left the matter to be decided by CB3's full board.

But as EV Grieve reports, CB3 wasn't having any of it, and so Patrick and Hartman - the latter of whom has been an East Village business owner for decades - were rejected. For months, there has been talk that the building's landlord has been entertaining a couple of banks and 7-11 as prospective tenants; last week, a reliable source confirmed these rumors for us.

While we are no fans of irresponsible bar owners and the braying, vomiting hoards they attract to the neighborhood, we find ourselves perplexed by CB3's refusal to support a respected local business owner whose proposed venue, as Patrick told us, would not be "a rowdy club" or one of a "gauntlet of bars where you can get Jell-O shots." Unlike, say, Superdive, the 13th Step, and Billy Hurricane's, all of which received the board's blessings and have proven to be huge headaches for the neighborhood.

In an ideal world, East Village rents would still be low enough to support a diverse retail and service environment, with independent bookstores, cinemas, locksmiths, hardware stores, independent drugstores, and second-hand boutiques whose price tags didn't match those at Barney's. But given that landlords are businesspeople whose main concern is, unfortunately, cash, we're basically left with the choice of an empty building, a bank/Subway/7-11, or an establishment run by somebody who knows better than to shit where he sleeps. A licensed establishment is not inherently bad for the neighborhood, but the inability to differentiate between those applying for licenses is.

RyanAvenueA said...

I don't know about the Subway, especially with one just opening on B. I was on the fence about Piney Woods, and I'm absolutely in support of the arts. If a future liquor license holder dismissively claims that his adjacent neighbor is going out of business, I'm not thinking he's set up to be the best neighbor after he get his license. It was a small sentence that spoke volumes.

Anonymous said...

@ Ryan Ave A

There has been rumors that place has been going out of business going around for a while, supposedly people told by the owner. I am not sure if that's true or not.

That said - so many people's comments were that Piney Woods would put them out of business - if that's the fear, that's ridiculous.

If the only thing keeping Angelina in business is the lack of competition because Ave A btw 2nd and 3rd street is a majority of empty storefronts - than they have bigger problems than a new neighbor.

RyanAvenueA said...

@ Anon 3:18,
Agreed that Piney Woods wouldn't have put them out of business. I guess my point, less poetically, was that the guy kind of came off like a dick to a lot of people, which didn't help his cause.

Anonymous said...

Who is kidding who? The only reason this application made it this far was because of Phil Hartman. The main driver of this plan was the promoter Todd Patrick who has no ties to the LES, has never run a business in the LES, had trouble with the cops in Bushwick, etc. So the community is supposed to support a brand new liquor license on Ave A for a guy who has absolutely no experience running a bar/restaurant period, no less one in the LES. How is he going to deal with the crowds that roam up and down Ave A on the weekend etc - give me a break. They said the bars would be open to the public and not just to people attending a music performance so is he gonna tell them he doesn't want their cash - I think not.

One Board member changed his vote when he found out Phil had absolutely no role in the business other than to be a cheerleader and to get it through the CB.

Furthermore - portraying people who have lived through Aces and Eights "as the cranky old-before-their-time people who've forgotten why they initially came to NYC" is just blatantly offensive and moronic. I see this shit all the time on the Grieve and it is repulsive. Is that how you refer to your grandmother? These older members of the LES who people like you constantly trash are the reason you can live here in the first place without getting mugged, the reason we have community gardens, the reason we have a farmer's market or a decent park we can all use, or even the dog run. They came here when no one else wanted to, raised their families here and created the vibrant diverse neighborhood that you live in. So stop bashing them and treat them with some respect - they deserve the right to live in peace and not be forced to leave so you can have another place to get a drink. There are plenty of place to eat and drink in the LES and as someone pointed out over 25 places to hear great live music.

How about supporting some of them and helping them stay in business?

Anonymous said...

This proposal is like ten years too late. Nobody did anything about the crisis of proliferating bars and restaurants, so to add this one now is adding insult to injury. There should not be liquor license after liquor license after, it's actually illegal and it's created a real problem of over saturation. I saw more limousines this past weekend on A between First and Second, it's out of control. It's also unsafe, but people allowed this to happen. I'm guilty too. It wasn't until I woke up one day and realized that my whole block was one big lounge and that the buildings on my block had all been emptied of long time tenants, then I got involved.

That particular block second and third as well as third and fourth is empty partly because of Phil. The Pioneer theater, the cajun restaurant, video store have all been vacant for a really long time. Phil sold them. 34 Avenue A is what it is because of Phil too. The corner space where graceland once was is currently empty because people didn't want another ragu boy you know Sauce, Supper, Franks, Little Frankies, that's why that is.

Some good things on the block. The pharmacy decided to relocate on A, the gift store decided to stay on A, it's moving into the Urban Roots space at Ageloff Towers. That building with the book store, magazine shop, etc., is empty now but it won't rent to bars and restaurants. The NYTCHA building has many vacant spaces but I heard that they won't rent to another restaurant either because of the cajun restaurant. There's also Village Mews apartments on the west side of the street, there's no storefront space there. The comedy club should be coming soon, when I don't know?

People like Phil and David Mcwater abused the system and now these same people tried to push this one through. It's more than offensive.

I support the Under St. Marks plan because it has integrity. When I first heard about them trying to purchase the building I thought, well I hope that they don't rent the apartments for market rate because then what that would give the community is a preserved theater venue and that's all, but that's not what they are doing. They are going to do artist housing and there's a whole concept. You understand that if they were to use the residential component of the building to make money for the theater it would do nothing in terms of the gentrification in the area which has everything to do with real estate and the lack of affordable housing.

My feeling is that Piney Woods would be like adding something on top of the problem.

Anonymous said...

You know, it is one thing to oppose liquor license applications in principle, or to be against certain applications on their merits.

Opposing these people because you just don't want anymore licenses is fine. If there was something really lacking in their proposal or in who they are as applicants, that would be reasonable to bring up.

But what was really tacky about the campaign against this license was the flimsy rumors and character assassination used to fight here.

Todd P as public enemy #1? Give me a break. Have you actually read anything about this guy? He's not some wide eyed kid. He's organised all over the City, including in the area at Cakeshop, 92 Y Tribeca, DCTV, Sine, Starfoods. He's managed bars and venues. He has a stellar reputation for good taste and for treating artists fairly. The Times has profiled him repeatedly, and there's a documentary about him. The guy is exactly the sort of arts organizer that made this neighborhood.

I don't have to tell you abut Phil Hartman's history in the neighborhood. Despite the long biography of responsible business and public service, Phil was repeatedly attacked because the Pioneer Theater closed, and Two Boots' video store scaled down. Really? That's a reason to criticize? He was apparently supposed to keep those businesses alive in the face of movie theaters and video stores disappearing everywhere. Phil was also supposed to have the perfect forsight to predict that Aces & Eights would be the fratboy hell it became.

Can't you guys have kept it clean? Did you really have to trump up something as harmless as a mention that Angelina is closing? And the way "Brooklyn" and "Bushwick" were being thrown around as dirty words, you guys really come across as the has-beens you are.

These cranks are so committed to getting rid of liquor licenses in general that they've collectively forgot that there's nothing inherently bad about eating, drinking, and culture. Arts spaces with food and drink are a large part of what brought this neighborhood up from neglect and decay.

There's nothing inherently saintly about "not-for-profit" entities, either. There may be alcohol-free stages scattered around this neighborhood, but how relevant are most of those places as venues for interesting new art and music? With few exceptions: not very.

Enjoy your Billy Hurricanes and your chic hotels with multiple bars, because your strategy isn't stopping those licenses. Meanwhile you're willing to stoop to defaming the reputations of independent applicants with community-minded goals.

How are those tactics justified, and how do they make our neighborhood a better place to live?

BagelGuy said...

While I will not profess to know all the ins and outs of this issue ( It seems like both sides have valid arguments) I can tell you first hand that when CB3 denies a new liquor license it does make things a bit easier for a non bar/restaurant small business person to get his foot in the door. Once landlords get it through head their heads that a liquor license isn't going to happen, that they aren't going to be dining gratis at the next hot EV restaurant, they become much more agreeable to meeting with regular working Joe's. Rent numbers suddenly become flexible. Maybe I am giving them too much credit but, could it be possible that CB3 is trying to starve the beast, willing to go through the rough growing pains, until rents come back down to the point where a guy can open a comic book store or a bakery ( A real bakery that bakes bread.) without having to shill tequila shots?

Anonymous said...

The former chair of the board made a great point last night. She said "If you don't want to watch golf, don't buy a house on the golf course." - or something to that effect. She also pointed out that she chaired the board when the community requested greater police presence on Ave A back in 1988 in response to the bars that were proliferating then - a move that led to the TSP riots by the way.

Jill said...

I'd like to know more about how the police presence protecting bars led to the TSP riot?

From everything I've read and hear, and from the people I know who were there (injured and arrested) that night, the riot was a direct result of the police turning off the music and enforcing the park closing, which had been an ongoing battle all summer long - closing the park and kicking out the people living in it. What ever does that have to do with bars? If I'm missing a piece of this story, I'd like to know more.

Jill said...

Bagel guy - right on - this is exactly the result I hope for and the entire point of opposing new liquor licenses.

The only winners in this bar-game are the landlords who can charge 1/3 more rent for a bar than any other business. The landlords are the ones keeping the stores empty, not CB3.

The idea of some people that the only choices we have are bars or chain stores is ridiculous.

Bagel guy is a great example of a business-person looking to open another type of business that will lend diversity to our shopping and purchasing experience in the 'hood but struggles with these stupid rents that almost doom them from the beginning.

The landlords hold out for higher rents from bars, because in essence, the landlord is in business with their retailers - ie they get a cut of their profits, but with none of the risk.

Also, when bars sell their liquor licenses the landlord gets a cut of that. They go from $100,000 -$350,000 every time they turn over, so it is in the interest of the landlord also for the bars to turn over and get sold, thus keeping them empty in the meantime.

On that same note, on a "new" license, like this one, they won't have to pay that fee because there is nobody to buy a license from. What a sweet deal, because then if and when they close, they will have hundreds of thousands in their pockets on departure.

Squat or rot said...

Remember they agreed not to sell the license..

Squat or Rot said...

Police were initially deployed to Ave A steadily in the preceding months at the request of residents concerned with noise and public disorder being caused by bars and street life. Obviously the folks living in the park were a big part of the rowdiness.

Uncle Waltie said...

I have to agree with everything Anonymous said.

Jill said...

That promise is empty. Nobody can enforce them to not sell. Nobody can enforce any of the stops they sign and in fact the 9th precinct refuses to do so.

I have seen more times than I can count owners make (and sign in writing) promises that wind up conflicting with their plans as times change and those promises are long forgotten. On my block 2 restaurants swore up and down their biz plan did not include alcohol if they would be granted a beer and wine only. Within a year they were both back asking for the upgrade. One described the effort (referring to others, not himself) as an exit strategy for a failing business.

Jill said...

Oops.. typo.. not "stops" but "stips" as in stipulations they sign with the community board.

Anonymous said...

PS: If my grandmother lived in the East Village and didn't like the noise, I would indeed recommend that she consider moving elsewhere.

Reality check: This is New York CITY. It's loud as hell in the day w/o bar traffic.

I live on 3rd and Ave A. Last summer there was a ton of illegal construction w/ jackhammers before 8am that was INSANELY loud - did any of your Tea Party Teatotallers errr... I mean community members complain about that?

I am guessing not.

glamma said...

the short answer is clearly yes. vacant is better.

Uncle Waltie said...

It's now 4:07 and all is eerily quiet on my block. I need some stupid person's "WOOHOO" or whatever.