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Not so happy hour: community board denies Union Square bar application for sidewalk cafe

Manhattan Community Board 5 Parks and Public Spaces Committee Chair Clayton Smith listens resident complaints about noise and rowdy patrons at Union Square's SideBAR, Feb.3. ( Photo by Chriss Williams)

BY CHRISS WILLIAMS 

Community Board 5’s Park and Public Spaces Committee voted to deny a popular Union Square sports bar, SideBAR, an application for a sidewalk café last week. 

The watering hole, located at 118 East 15th St.,  has a contentious history with the community board members said due to previously running a sidewalk café on it’s property without a license, rowdy patrons and a reneged promise to not participate in the city-wide annual holiday pub crawl, SantaCon. 

“I wear ear plugs,” said Mickey Sweatt, who lives on the fourth floor of a building across the street from SideBAR. “I hear yelling, we hear music…way past midnight.” A total of 15 residents showed up to the Feb. 3 meeting to ask the community board to deny the application. 

Michael Sinensky, the bar’s owner, apologized to the disgruntled residents during the meeting. “It is not the intention of the business to have so many people upset,” Sinensky said while SideBAR’s managers Erika London and Matt Kranz stood stiffly next to him with their arms crossed. Sinensky explained that steps have been taken to appease community concerns like hiring additional security guards to handle large crowds, closing doors and windows during loud hours to reduce noise pollution and posting a sign with the cell phone number of a manager on duty in case anyone wishes to file a complaint. While residents complained, Sinensky jotted down notes. “We are here to make things better,” he added. 

SideBAR owner Michael Sinensky (center) listens to community concerns about noise, rowdy patrons and SantaCon as they wait for approval on an application for a sidewalk cafe next to managers Erika London (left) and Matt Kranz. (Photo by Chriss Williams)

Some residents were critical of the efforts Sinensky listed though. 

“They make a very good appearance of being sincere,” said Peter Conrad, who lives near the bar. Conrad then held up a photo of the sign with the manager on duty’s contact information, a measure that was a recommendation from the community board last summer. “Did you want it to be hung where it could be seen?” Conrad added. 

SideBAR is not the first bar to be accused of keeping the neighbors awake or causing sidewalk congestion but as Committee Chairman Clayton Smith told residents at the meeting, the anger from the community towards this bar was unique.

“We obviously can’t vote to support your sidewalk café application until we have met both the concerns about the operational reputation and also questions about compliance,”said Smith. 

The Villager