C.B. 3 supports cutting off liquor at problem spots

By Albert Amateau

Neighborhood complaints about the frenzied pace of nightlife and liquor license applications on the Lower East Side and in the East Village attracted a packed house at the Monday meeting of Community Board 3’s S.L.A. Committee.

The committee voted against recommending liquor licenses for more than a third of the applications because of neighbors’ complaints. Several were rejected because the owners did not appear at the meeting to present their cases and a few applicants withdrew and indicated they would apply another time.

Alexandra Militano, chairperson of the committee, told the disappointed applicants that they could try to make their case at the full Community Board 3 meeting on Sept. 23. The full board, which rarely goes against the committee’s vote, makes a final recommendation to the State Liquor Authority. While community board recommendations to state and city agencies are only advisory, during the past two years, the S.L.A. has been paying increased attention to local boards.

It was a big disappointment to Randy Weiner, managing partner of The Box, the celebrity-flavored venue at 189 Chrystie St., that the committee voted against a liquor license renewal for the three-year-old establishment.

“We’ve made a lot of changes in the past four months,” Weiner said, in response to one neighbor from an adjoining building who said he could hear the songs from The Box at 1 a.m. and again at 2:45 a.m.

“It’s been a nightmare for two years,” said Christopher Henry, a resident of the adjacent building for the past 18 years.

Ken Rizzo, another neighbor, said he spent sleepless nights four days a week for two years.

“I have been getting sleep for the past couple of months,” Rizzo said. “It’s gotten better because their liquor license was coming up for renewal.”

Another neighbor said he couldn’t go down Chrystie St. to his apartment because of the crowds.

“A bouncer stopped me on the way home and carded me. I told him, ‘[Expletive deleted], I live here and I want to go home,’ ” he said.

Susan Stetzer, C.B. 3 district manager, said that noise from the location had abated after frequent meetings with The Box management.

“Some say the traffic is better. We’ve been begging the Fifth Precinct to deal with the traffic,” she added.

Charlie Cohen, owner of 189 Chrystie St., also said the noise level has improved over the past few months.

However, David McWater, a former C.B. 3 chairperson and an S.L.A. committee member, told The Box, “You have a nightclub in a residential street. Your application said you were going to have a ‘full-service dinner theater’ but it doesn’t seem like it to me. You advertise on the Internet as a club and you don’t have a cabaret license.”

McWater, who owns several bars in the district, said, “There is a full-scale, anti-bar movement in the district now and it’s people like you that started it.”

Weiner insisted that The Box is indeed a dinner theater and maintains a full food service for each of its three shows.

The impresario also said he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on acoustical experts and soundproofing. But because 189 Chrystie St. is brick and has a common wall with the adjoining brick building, there is little to be done, he said. Weiner said The Box has changed the loud speakers, angled them differently and put a cap on sound volume.

“We want to meet with neighbors every two weeks and make adjustments if it gets too loud,” Weiner added.

The committee, however, voted unanimously not to recommend a liquor license renewal for The Box.

City Councilmember Rosie Mendez came to the meeting to urge the committee to vote against a license renewal for Mercadito, 179 Avenue B. The bar put a bench outside for the comfort of patrons and it became so popular that the crowds that gathered around it blocked the sidewalk, Mendez said.

“They got a citation [from the Department of Transportation] and got rid of the bench, but then they started pulling tables out on the sidewalk,” Mendez said. However, Mercadito did not send anyone to the meeting to make its case, despite notices that the issue would be heard at the Sept. 15 meeting. The application was rejected for nonappearance.

Another application for a liquor license renewal showed the twists and turns of the hyperactive East Village bar market.

A man who identified himself as Shariff came before the committee on Monday to renew the liquor license he was granted a few years ago for Carthage Palace at 46 Avenue B. That was the name of the previous business and the new place was Brazilian Steakhouse doing business as Carnevale. Shariff said he had been injured in an accident and couldn’t run the place, so he leased it to his friend, Marcus Jacob, an owner of Le Souk, the North African-themed restaurant at 47 Avenue B that has frequently drawn complaints from neighbors about noise, crowds and traffic. Le Souk is currently pursuing an Article 78 lawsuit in the courts to prevent the S.L.A. from revoking its liquor license.

“Did you list Le Souk as the operator on the liquor license?” asked McWater. “No,” said Shariff. McWater noted that it’s against the law for someone not on the license to run licensed premises.

In any case, Shariff said the place had been closed for two years and was empty.

And the clincher was Stetzer’s observation that she had checked with the S.L.A., which said the license for Carthage Place — or Carnevale — had been revoked.

“So there is no license for them to renew,” she said later.