Chinatown school opposes more neighborhood bars

By Lincoln Anderson

Saying the neighborhood has enough places selling alcohol, 20 children and parents from a Chinatown Head Start program came to Community Board 2’s full board meeting recently to protest a liquor license application for a new restaurant and bar on Mott St.

“We do not need any more bars in this community, especially not so close to a school,” said Sook Ling Lai, director of Chinatown Head Start at 180 Mott St. “We need more family-oriented businesses.

Lai said they were representing “over 100 parents” whose children use the Head Start after-school programs.

While only one of the bar/restaurants was on Board 2’s agenda July 24, Lai and other Head Start members said it is one of three new hoping to open up on the block.

On the board’s agenda was Ruth at 192 Mott St., which according to applicants, is a 74-seat restaurant and bar. However, Board 2’s business committee’s resolution noted the plans presented showed a total of 100 seats between the main floor and basement, which would require a public assembly license. Lai said the other liquor license applications are next door at 186 Mott St. and across the street a half block away at 191 Mott St.

Don Lee, a member of Board 2, said he told the Head Start group to gather a petition to show the strength of neighborhood opposition and in two weeks, they had a petition with more than 1,000 names.

Lee later said the Head Start’s window has been broken recently and there’s been problems with public urination, all of which has been attributed to the new bar crowd.

Jim Smith, the board’s chairperson praised the show of strength of the Chinatown opponents who had previously packed the board’s business committee meeting with 40 people.

“I am so glad to see so many people from our Asian community here tonight, who may have been a little shy in the past” to speak out on issues that affect them, Smith said. “To get stuff done in this city, unfortunately, you have to make noise. Keep on kicking,” he urged them. “Keep on yelling. That’s how you get things done.”

“Thank you, we need all the help we can get, and we don’t have money for an attorney,” said Lai, sounding pretty savvy.

Councilmember Alan Gerson said he “joined with the community of Chinatown in opposing the liquor licenses. It’s ridiculous to oversaturate an area — particularly across from the school, the Head Start that is right there.”

The board voted to deny a liquor license to Ruth restaurant and called upon the State Liquor Authority to hold a 500-ft.-rule hearing “so that the views of the community can be heard and taken into account.” The 500-ft.-rule hearing is held to determine whether an area is oversaturated with liquor licenses and whether granting another one would be “in the public good.”

Additionally, despite concerns expressed by some board members that there would be underage drinking, the board approved an upgrade from a wine and beer license to a full liquor license for Soho Billiards, 56 E. Houston St.