Wine Bar Proposal Passed Over Loud Opposition

by - June 9, 2010 at 11:55 pm -

A community board committee approved plans for a new wine bar on the corner of 62nd Street and Central Park West despite hours worth of loud objections from the people who live in the landmark building where it’s supposed to go.

A rendering of the proposed bar.

A rendering of the proposed bar.

The fight over the bar proposal at 25 Central Park West has only just begun and to get a liquor permit proprietor Greg Hunt will have to win at least two more votes — from the full community board and the state liquor authority. But the 7-2 vote on Wednesday night was a big victory, given that Hunt appeared to be up against long odds. More than 100 people packed the small sweaty community board meeting room, and it seemed like almost all of them were lawyers. In fact, one said very matter-of-factly: “This will be litigated. It will be litigated and opposed and it will not open.”

In all, about 50 people spoke out at the meeting — about 18 in favor and 35 opposed. Residents in the building said the bar would bring “hookers, “drugs”, “drug dealers,” “celebrities” and “drunks soliciting me when I’m out walking my dog.” There was even discussion of whether Lindsay Lohan would be interested in hanging out at a place like this. Community Board member Linda Alexander tried to reassure everyone that the Upper West Side is not nearly cool/trashy enough for Lindsay Lohan.

The entryway to the 25CPW space.

The entryway to the 25CPW space.

Mostly, locals were upset that the bar would be open until 3 a.m. even though Hunt has said he wants to appeal to a quiet, sophisticated over-35 crowd. They also questioned why he needed a full liquor license if he wants to mostly serve wine (he could have applied for a wine and beer license too). Hunt says he needs to keep it open late to make enough money to pay the rent, given that he’s going to keep the occupancy small (no more than 74 people at any time).

The vote in favor of the proposal was a big surprise to people in the room, many of whom lived in 25 CPW and its neighbor to the South, 15 Central Park West. Those two buildings house some very rich and powerful people, particularly 15 CPW. In fact, each building has hired its own lobbying group to oppose the plan. But Hunt agreed to make changes to appease some of his critics, in particular saying he would close the bar down at 2 a.m. on Wednesday through Saturday and 1 a.m. Sunday through Tuesday. Community Board 7’s business committee also asked him to shoo away patrons once they left the bar, so they won’t hang around carousing and smoking. Those stipulations and a few others were enough to win the vote.

“I’m pro-business,” said Michelle Parker, a co-chair of the committee, as to why she voted in favor of the proposal. “We’ve got to keep people moving around the neighborhood.”

This controversy will likely only get more attention in the coming weeks. Since we broke the story about the proposal a couple of weeks ago, the New York Post and Times have written about it, and a TV camera was recording the action on Wednesday. And lots of local politicians have expressed skepticism about Hunt’s plans, including Councilwoman Gale Brewer, Borough President Scott Stringer and State Senator Tom Duane.

Residents of 25 CPW said they were stunned, and vowed to fight the proposal again once it hits the full community board on July 6.

“We’re actually extremely surprised by the result,” said Paul Millman, a 25 CPW resident. “We thought our arguments were so overwhelming and logical, it was astonishing.”

Here are the websites for and against the proposal.

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  1. pete says...

    I didn’t attend the meeting, but I am happy that the board was not intimidated by the high-priced lobbyists that were hired by the buildings. give the man a chance to open a nice place for the neighborhood. it is fascinating that people who live in those buildings — many of them entrepreneurs themselves — want to stifle entrepreneurship when it is in their own backyard. the neighborhood is bigger than just two buildings, and those of us up the street (2 blocks away) actually welcome a nice place to relax in. if the buildings really want to improve the neighborhood, they could focus on the mister softee truck that parks illegally everyday next to the trump building and pollutes the air in out neighborhood.

  2. sam says...

    Note to Paul Millman: “overwhelming and logical” arguments do not include claims that a single wine bar on the upper west side will bring “hookers and drug dealers”.

    Walk one block over to Columbus, where there are many restaurants and wine bars these days, or just a few blocks north to the (former) Tavern on the Green and Cafe des Artistes, and such arguments become even more ridiculous. While those restauarants are now closed, they are still proof that one can run a quiet, high-end establishment (even with liquor) on CPW without sending the neighborhood careening back into the 1970s.

    I get that people who pay to live on CPW are paying, in part, for a certain level of exclusivity, but it’s still NYC.

  3. Sean says...

    Listen up!

    The SLA law states a Liquor license CANNOT be granted if there are more than 3 licensed premises within 500-ft of the applicant, UNLESS the applicant can demonstrate that a fourth license “Would Serve the Public Interest”.

    Since the applicant failed to provide that information, the committee of the CB clearly erred, and apparently doesn’t know the law it is supposed to regulate. Really pathetic.

    This will be litigated and the residents will win in NYS Supreme Court. That is always the case. Even if the SLA and the CB don’t understand the Law, the Supreme Court certainly does.

  4. Lou says...

    Sean, while great progress has been made in reforming the 500 foot rule:, would you be so kind as to identify the 3 establishments that force its adherence?

  5. Karen says...

    400 signatures from one building alone must say something? You know, for some this is a business. But this is OUR HOME. We pay a premium for a quiet block. Wonder how those who live on Riverside Drive or a nice quiet side street on the UWS would like it? I don’t think they would. There are plenty commercial spaces on Broadway where he would do better. I actually don’t think he’s going to have much business and why would you want to be in a building where people hate you and resent you? Not going to be good for business. I have never seen such unity in a building on a any issue. And that’s just the Century. 15CPW feels the same we were told by the head of their board.

  6. L'Emmerdeur says...

    Oh, Sean, you assume this license would not serve the public interest, because the establishment is located near your wingtip-clad clients’ abodes. But you and I both know that is not a deciding factor in approving a license. This establishment will create jobs and tax revenue, which both serve the public interest, especially in times of economic strain. Furthermore, the only argument you could make is that the establishment will create problems for residents – noise, congestion, etc. Alas, the current geography will be used against you successfully, since there are a number of similar wine bars within a few blocks of this location, and I know of no issues raised by residents in the relevant buildings, noise or otherwise.

    I’d say that most of Manhattan proves your little rant to be so much hot air, since there are hundreds of examples of “more than 3 licensed premises within 500-ft” of each other, and all the owners’ lawyers have to do is bring a small chest full of such examples, which would act as sufficient precedent to require the Supreme Court to send you and your kind scurrying back to your little Den of Litigious Iniquity, after your clients punish you with the mandatory losers’ flogging, of course.

    The funniest part of this all is, I’m sure your snooty clients would love to see an antique store or similar establishment take the space, but alas, their overzealous overspending priced any and all such types of businesses out of Manhattan long ago.

    Funny part 2: I would love to see your clients win this, because it would create a precedent for all the non-moneyed NIMBYs throughout Manhattan to shut down truly invasive establishments, like the Cooper Union monstrosity. So, lawyer away, my man, and shoot your own kind in their well-heeled foot!

  7. J says...

    Now, I assume the vast majority of residents of 15 and 25 CPW are old and cranky, but can they be so out of touch that they think a “night club” could survive on the UWS?

    Furthermore, the rush to litigate, as well as the joy it seems to bring to “Sean” and the anonymous quote from above just shows how petty and pathetic the fogies really are. Maybe a nice quartino from the, soon to be, quiet wine bar under your building will calm you down?

  8. LowerUWSider says...

    I live at 25 CPW and frankly wouldn’t mind having a wine bar on the corner. I do, however, live on the other side of the building on a higher floor, so I wouldn’t be directly affected by noise from the bar. Given where in the building I live, I also don’t think it’s my place to publicly support the bar – it would be a nice amenity, but I think the concerns of people in apartments closer to the bar outweigh my own interests.

    Interestingly, I’ve read that the corner at issue was originally built as a two-story space intended for a restaurant. The building owners were unable to rent the space to a restaurant during the depression when the building was completed, so they cut space in half, creating a retail space in the lower half and turning the upper half into an apartment. I suspect that’s why the resulting apartment’s casement windows, although old and seemingly original, don’t match the design of the windows in the rest of the building. In any event, the original developers seem to have contemplated something not too different than what is currently being proposed.

    As for the 500-foot rule, I’m not sure if it’s based on walking distance or a radius, but I would guess that Josephina’s, Fiorello, Bar Boulud, P.J. Clarke’s and Jean Georges are all within 500 feet of the bar space (and potentially each other).

  9. LowerUWSider says...

    Actually, I just checked using google earth, and, as the crow flies, all the restaurants I mentioned appear to be more than 500 feet away from the bar space.

  10. Sean says...

    The fact that this applicant is before the CB indicates ipso facto that there are more than three existing premises within 500 feet. No applicant would go through this review were that not the case. Besides, another commenter answered your question.

    Secondly, to the silly L’Emmerdeur, who has the inanity to state: This establishment will create jobs and tax revenue, which both serve the public interest”

    Your arrogance is exceeded only by your ignorance!

    In the landmark 1994 decision, SoHo Alliance vs. SLA, a NYS Supreme Court Justice declared that an applicant’s claim that the creation of taxes and jobs was an insufficient and spurious argument, since ANY business would do that. She overturned the SLA’s granting of a license, and subsequent Rulings have upheld this! Research before you make a fool of yourself in public next time.

    Finally, I have no clients. I am a human being who appreciates sleep and quiet enjoyment, something you clearly are not.

  11. Karen says...

    A few of you sound bitter, even jealous -Like you resent that we live in one of these buildings. Because of that you can’t think/see things objectively.

    For your information, I am in my 30’s, own my apartment in the Century. I do not rent. Many of the ‘younger set’ were unable to attend the meeting. We had long days and sometimes people work late, some have young children to get home to. So yes many of the retired folks were the ones at the meeting. But assume that the entire population of both buildings are over 60.

    BTW If it closed at 11 or even midnight, an opened at 5, then most of us would see it as so terrible, but you have to admit the hours are a bit extreme. But then again, you don’t want to really be objective do you?

  12. LowerUWSider says...

    Sean, I re-checked the measurements on google earth, and some of the restaurants I mentioned may in fact be within 500 feet, so I stand corrected. You said that a prior commenter answered my question. Who was that? Or perhaps you weren’t referring to my comment?

    I have to say that I really don’t understand the seemingly universal hysteria among building residents. Sure, if I lived within a few floors above the bar, I’d be concerned. But for most other people in the building I can’t imagine that noise would be an issue. When I open the windows in my apartment, the level of white noise (traffic, car horns, wind and the occasional plane or helicopter) is so relentless that I never hear voices from the street over that din, despite the fact that Broadway and its restaurants and bars are within view of my apartment. And as all residents of the building know, the 25CPW gallery that has occupied the proposed bar space for the last several months has had numerous exhibitions often resulting in groups of 10 to 20 people loitering on the sidewalk after 10 p.m. Have their voices actually carried into many people’s apartments? Maybe right upstairs, but anywhere else?

    If your apartment truly is within earshot of the proposed bar, then fine – you’re entitled to voice your objections. If your apartment isn’t quite that close but you want to show solidarity with neighbors who may be adversely affected, then fine – do so. It is, however, a little disingenuous to claim that most residents of the building would suffer from increased noise as a result of that bar. It’s NYC – despite an 800-acre park across the street, the background noise is oppressive. The spirited late-night conversations of bar patrons will be mere pins dropping for most of us.

  13. Sean says...

    LowerUWSider, I was in fact responding to your own comment. All the comments were getting confusing, who said what?
    Bottom line, if there weren’t 3 licenses within 500 feet, they wouldn’t be at the CB.

    Believe me, I’ve had lots of experience with this. I live downtown.

    The point is: no more than 3 joints within 500 ft unless the applicant proves the “Public Interest is served”, and noise and crowds would not serve the public interest.

    The courts ALWAYS uphold the law – even if the SLA doesn’t – and the community always wins in the end.

    Keep fighting, guys. You have to lose but your peace and quiet.

  14. LowerUWSider says...

    Thanks, Sean. I wonder what in fact constitutes the “public interest” in the Lincoln Center area. Josephina’s, Fiorello, Picholine, Shun Lee and O’Neal’s all seem to be within 500 feet of each other and have been in business for years. Within the last couple of years, Bar Boulud opened within 500 feet of all those restaurants and P.J. Clarke’s, Ed’s Chowder House and a revamped hotel bar all opened in the Empire, which is within 500 feet of at least three of the older restaurants. Someone must have determined that this concentration of liquor licenses is in the public interest. I wonder whether the fact that these restaurants serve Lincoln Center patrons is taken into account. In any event, 25 CPW isn’t on a quiet side street downtown. It’s sandwiched between two heavily trafficked avenues and surrounded by restaurants and bars. None of them (other than Jean Georges) is on CPW proper, but they’re all within a block. Noise is a fact of life around here.

  15. Sean says...

    It only kicks in basically when people oppose it at the CB.

    Noise may be a fact of life, but not people screaming drunkenly at 2 am on the sidewalk. This happens all too frequently at bar-ridden areas.

    Nor is 20 bars on a block, as has been happening in some residential neighborhoods in NYC.

  16. LowerUWSider says...

    Are there any liquor license applications that don’t meet with some level of opposition at CB meetings?

    In any event, the likelihood of CPW becoming bar-ridden is zero, as the only other retail spaces between 61st Street and 96th Street are around 77th Street (in museums) and on 63rd Street (in the north corner of the Century).

    Moreover, the neighborhood mainly attracts music-lovers of a certain age who enjoy quiet dinners before concerts and quiet drinks thereafter. The twenty-somethings who get drunk and scream at night don’t hang out around here. To them, our neighborhood is lame, and even the hippest bar in the city won’t draw them to 62nd and CPW. It’s a dead-end – there are no other remotely cool places for them to go to around here. That’s why I have faith that, despite being open until 2 a.m., the proposed wine bar will attract the same crowd that patronizes bars in Upper East Side hotels like the Surrey, the Carlyle and, formerly, the Stanhope – older folks and professional types who want a quiet place for post-dinner conversation and drinks with friends. I’d enjoy a place like that. Maybe I’m naive, but I really think the rabble-rousers will remain in the Village, SoHo, NoHo, LES, Meatpacking, Flatiron, the eastern UES, the upper UWS and the countless other neighborhoods with high concentrations of bars geared to them. In those areas every new bar is a potential magnet for loudmouthed meatheads and tipsy bachelorettes, and residents have to be vigilant. Not so here.

  17. Lou says...

    Sean, I need to disagree with your contention that Hunt’s appearance before the CB means that there already exist 3 establishments within 500 ft. If people had stayed later into the meeting, they would have noted there were 2 additional subsequent liquor licenses that were approved on Wednesday. Every new application to the SLA, where in violation of the 500 ft. rule or not, must undergo CB review.

  18. LowerUWSider says...

    Yeah, I’m really scratching my head about this one because it seems like Jean Georges (and Nougatine, which is probably operated under the same license) are the only places that could be within 500 feet. Maybe I’m forgetting some other bar or restaurant.

  19. Says says...

    I think LowerUWSide needs to think about having a glass of wine in his high floor, north facing apartment (with the proper casement window, no less) while playing with his google earth.

  20. L'Emmerdeur says...

    Sean, no need to insult, calling me silly and my arguments inane only makes you look desperate – which you obviously are.

    You bring up a “landmark” decision… from 1994? Have you seen what has happened to our city in the 16 years since that ruling? Do you really think that any such ruling has stood in the way of a well-connected and well-lawyered plaintiff or defendant in such a case? If you think the landscape of our city has been shaped by this so-called “landmark case” of yours, then you, sir, probably haven’t left your apartment in a couple of decades.

    Let’s face facts here: if we were talking about a bunch of poor, rent-controlled NIMBY scum from the LES complaining about such-and-such hotel plopping a pretty frickin’ illegal rooftop lounge a few feet from their windows, I’m sure you’d be posting comments here defending the poor hotel’s right to run its business and earn profits blah blah blah. And you’d be charging them by the hour, because you are so obviously a lawyer representing whoever can pay your hourly tithe – and in this case, that would be the well-heeled denizens of 25 CPW.

    Having said this, I do wish you good luck, and hope you crush this application like a bug. This would be a wondrous landmark ruling that all the not-as-fortunate-or-rich-as-25CPW NIMBYs could then use to shut down dozens of loud, obnoxious establishments throughout Manhattan.

    Or do these standards only apply to rich folks and their right to peace and quiet? Because I don’t remember any concerned, self-righteous commenters calling themselves “Sean” white knighting for the hoi polloi when it was their sleep that was being deprived by the likes of the Cooper Square Hotel.

  21. J says...

    Why do you live in Manhattan, if you want a quiet neighborhood?!?
    This is ridiculous. I’m sorry if you people spend/spent too much money on your apartment, condo, or penthouse… this is New York City!
    You probably moved here originally because you loved the energy, the life, the business, the hustle (and maybe even the noise!). Now, maybe you’re getting older, had a baby or three, and you want everything in the city to change so you can have quiet family time. Maybe it’s because you have to work at 7am now.
    I get annoyed by the noise every once in a while too, but then I remind myself that I CHOSE to live in this city… “the city that never sleeps”…
    I’m sorry but, move to Brooklyn, Connecticut, Westchester, New Jersey… there are plenty of quiet neighborhoods to be had, with easy access to the city.
    Stop taking your bad decision frustrations out on these poor business owners…