Facing Tribeca opposition, C.B. 1 busts its bar decision

By Patrick Hedlund

Not so fast, Buster.

Tribeca residents in opposition of a planned sports bar on N. Moore St. struck a victory against the proprietor this week after the community board voted overwhelmingly to rescind its original recommendation of a liquor license and shoot down the previous request.

Local residents made a show of force at the Community Board 1’s full board meeting on Tuesday after a group of about 80 people stormed the board’s Tribeca Committee last week to sign a petition urging the revote, in order to reverse the board’s November recommendation for the former owner of Buster’s Garage.

The capacity crowd at the committee meeting last Wednesday, which jammed the small meeting room and filled the hallway outside, rallied against the proposal to open the new restaurant/bar at 25 N. Moore St. in the ground floor of the Atalanta Building.

The owner, Ross Provenzano, had previously gotten the thumbs-up from Board 1 at its November meeting, but was questioned by the building’s condo board about the nature of the operation in December. The condo board claimed that the information originally presented to them provided a description of a “family-style bistro,” although the operators had originally requested a 4 a.m. closing time and featured a predominance of bar seating.

The condo board alleged, however, that information provided about the restaurant to 25 N. Moore residents last month and the community board in November varied greatly from plans filed with the State Liquor Authority, a fact that was confirmed after a lawyer enlisted by the condo board attained filings proving the discrepancies.

The S.L.A. application showed that the project did indeed differ from the original proposal, including an increase of the bar area and 16 seats at the bar, and a decrease of 14 seats and seven tables for eating.

Also chief to the residents’ argument were the establishment’s requested closing time, a menu selection not consistent with a family restaurant, the owner’s past history in the neighborhood, and the confluence of bars in the area. The owner’s perceived “subterfuge” in the S.L.A. application process, as one committee member put it, further galvanized the capacity crowd to show their opposition.

The S.L.A. had originally scheduled to hear the application in early January but granted a stay after the community board expressed reservations about its initial approval. The opposition has received support from community residents and Assemblymember Deborah Glick.

At the Tribeca Committee meeting last week, a lawyer for Provenzano’s firm, 200 Water Group, L.L.C., Warren Pesetsky, said that the current plans filed with the S.L.A. match what was originally presented to the community board, drawing claims from opponents that the owners had amended their application at the eleventh hour after the community became privy to inconsistencies in the two proposals.

“They’ve been found out,” said Barry Mallin, the attorney for the 25 N. Moore condo board, said at the committee meeting last week. “They’re basically trying to cover their tracks.”

Pesetsky argued at the same meeting that the community board could not legitimately reverse its approval since the newly submitted S.L.A. application was the exact same one presented to C.B. 1 initially. He then added the restaurant’s owner had already made “major financial commitments” to the landlord at 25 N. Moore St.

Pesetsky’s contention was disputed by Mallin, who noted that the community board acts only as an advisory body and the proprietors should not have made a commitment based on their initial recommendation.

Even though the bar switched back to the C.B. 1-approved plan, the board reversed its decision because it felt deceived and because of the large community opposition.

Comments made at the committee meeting also focused on the former Buster’s Garage, which came to be a sore spot for neighbors when it was located at 180 West Broadway near Leonard St.

“Buster’s by any other name is still Buster’s,” said one committee member of the allegedly former rowdy sports bar. There is no name yet for the new bar. Others noted that three to four times as many people could have shown up at the meeting to speak out in opposition.

“This is a defining moment for this community,” said Steve Fineman, a resident of 31 N. Moore St. who provided testimony against the planned restaurant. He said that if a Buster’s-style establishment were to eventually land in the neighborhood, “we can leave, [and] we will leave.”

Marc Ameruso, a Tribeca resident who co-chaired the committee meeting last week, added he was tired of new bars and restaurants “always trying to bamboozle us.” He added it was an easy vote for him because the community came out so strongly against the proposal. “We’ll not get fooled again.”

The S.L.A. planned to re-hear the issue — taking into account the community board’s new resolution to deny the application, as well as the petition and a letter from Glick — on Wednesday. Lawyers for 200 Water Group will then have three days after the hearing to offer a rebuttal. Allen Murabayashi, president of the 25 N. Moore St. condo board, said a final decision might not be handed down until months from now.

“We certainly have a good feeling,” Murabayashi said. “I will be very surprised if the S.L.A. grants the liquor license.”

With reporting by Julie Shapiro