Delancey rooftop-bar bid gets takedown at C.B. 3

The C.B. 3 S.L.A. Committee said “no” to a rooftop bar at the Delancey St. Holiday Inn.  Photo by Amy Russo
The C.B. 3 S.L.A. Committee said “no” to a rooftop bar at the Delancey St. Holiday Inn. Photo by Amy Russo

BY AMY RUSSO | The S.L.A. Committee of Community Board 3 recently rejected an application to expand a liquor license for a proposed rooftop bar atop the Holiday Inn at the corner of Delancey and Suffolk Sts.

Joe Donagher and Eamon Donnelly, operators of the Retro Bar and Grill on the hotel’s ground floor, envisioned a chic rooftop hangout for a “corporate crowd.” But it is now unlikely that the duo will ever see the drinkery become a reality.

C.B. 3 members had expected Donagher and Donnelly to appear at the board’s July 11 State Liquor Authority and Department of Consumer Affairs Licensing Committee meeting. But only the hotel’s general manager, Rosario Bianchi, was present, reportedly texting, then stepping out of the meeting and taking a phone call, according to Pam Ito, president of the Suffolk St. Block Association.

Twenty-three individuals were present at the meeting, sporting neon green signs strung around their necks to protest the license expansion. After Donagher and Donnelly failed to show, the decision was made to reject the application.

Upon requesting the expanded license, Donagher and Donnelly “never really contacted anyone at all,” Ito noted. “They just kind of appeared on the S.L.A. list.”

According to a July 10 letter from Ito to the S.L.A. Committee on behalf of the block association and local residents, the applicant “showed no particular interest in the community’s concerns of bringing more transient people to the area, nor does their application show a move toward installing any sound proofing.”

Donagher and Donnelly run three other Manhattan bars, and numerous “311” phoned-in complaints concerning the locations have been reported, the letter notes. The letter also states that 15 liquor licenses already exist within 500 feet of the Delancey location.

Unsettled by the bar’s planned 4 a.m. closing time, community members anticipated noise pollution and an increase in drunken behavior. Ito, whose apartment building abuts the Holiday Inn, cited the closing time as problematic, stating that even a midnight closing would have been disruptive.

Residents also highlighted concerns over the traffic congestion from the nearby Williamsburg Bridge that they feared would have been exacerbated had yet another bar opened.

The application’s denial comes as a wave of opposition to more bars has swept through the Lower East Side in response to the growing nightlife and routine drunken antics.

“From Wednesday to Sunday brunch, the area is turned into a version of Cancun — crowds of drunken people club- and bar-hop, taking over the sidewalk and curbside and bike lane,” said Diem Boyd, who organized a petition against the approval of the Holiday Inn license expansion.

Boyd, founder of LES Dwellers, described nights of “drunken fights in the middle of the street, over-intoxicated people colliding with traffic, and vomit- and urine-stained sidewalks and doorways in front of residential buildings and places of business the next morning or same day.”

Ito and Boyd have helped to lead a grassroots community campaign against the proposed bar, garnering 144 signatures on an online petition and 250 in an additional paper petition. The latter was intended to capture the support of older residents, explained Ito.

According to the 2010 census, people age 60 and up account for more than 20 percent of the L.E.S. population.

When Ito initially spoke to Susan Stetzer, the Community Board 3 district manager, it was made clear to Ito that she would have to mobilize residents to make an impact. So, Ito and others “hung out in front of the Holiday Inn, in front of apartments and got those signatures,” she said.

The hotel is next to “Hell Square,” the name given by LES Dwellers to the boozy nine-block domain bounded by Allen, Essex, E. Houston and Delancey Sts. The LES Dwellers focus on trying to maintain and improve the neighborhood’s quality of life, which they charge has been negatively impacted by an excess of liquor licences and the resulting weekly chaos. The group’s Web site states that there are a total of 461 on-premises full liquor licenses in the C.B. 3 district.

“Our neighborhood wasn’t saying, ‘Not in our backyard,’ ” Ito remarked. “We’re just saying we already have 15.”

Although it wasn’t always the case before, it is now rare that the state approves a liquor licence application previously denied by a community board. Donagher and Donnelly refused to comment for this article.