Wine Bar on 62nd Passes, But Lawyers are Circling

by - July 6, 2010 at 11:41 pm -

A proposal for a wine bar on the ground floor of 25 Central Park West made it through the gauntlet of the Community Board on Tuesday night, but lawyers hired to fight the bar have opened a new legal challenge that could sink the plan.

greg hunt

Greg Hunt after the vote.

The vote was 22 to 11 in favor of letting the bar get a liquor license as long as it adheres to a list of rules, including closing down at 12:30 a.m. from Sunday through Tuesday and 1:30 a.m. from Wednesday through Saturday (the owner, Greg Hunt, had initially asked to stay open until 3 a.m.). The manager on duty at the bar will also have a cell phone designated as the “complaint line.” And Hunt has apparently even signed a notarized document agreeing he will never put a velvet rope in front of the club.

The bar would sit on the ground floor of 25 Central Park West, a landmark building on 62nd Street. Residents of that building and the ultra-swanky 15 Central Park West across the street (home of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein), have spoken out against the proposal. The license application now goes to the State Liquor Authority, which will take the community board vote as a recommendation.

Unlike the three-hour meeting at a subcommittee last month, in which local residents said the bar would bring drug dealers and paparazzi to the neighborhood, the hearing on Tuesday was short and filled with legalisms. Most of the comments came from lawyers hired by the various participants and representatives for people who live in 15 and 25 Central Park West, as opposed to the dozens of incensed residents who spoke last month. The words of Supreme Court justices were read, terms like “grandfathered nonconforming use” were invoked numerous times, and the name “Lindsay Lohan” was not uttered even once.

Essentially, lawyers for the residents of 25 Central Park West plan to challenge the wine bar on the grounds that the zoning for the space doesn’t allow it. Because the meeting was about a liquor license and not zoning, the issue wasn’t hashed out. But it could land the bar in court.

A rendering of the proposed bar.

A rendering of the proposed bar.

If the proposal makes it past the state liquor board and he prevails on the zoning issue, Hunt says he plans to open a wine bar that serves food and plays jazz music. Residents are afraid that the bar will attract a party crowd in a quiet residential neighborhood, a fear that wasn’t helped by Hunt’s initial request to keep the place open until 3 a.m.

Hunt is still trying to mend fences with the residents, most of whom have signed petitions and letters opposing the bar. After the vote, he went up to Paul Millman, the president of 25 CPW’s condo board, and said he was willing to put new windows in on the 2nd and 3rd floor above the bar so if people smoke outside the bar the smoke won’t get into their apartments. Millman, who thinks a bar doesn’t belong in the space, said Hunt’s offer was nice but “it’s not that simple.”

“It’s not over yet,” Millman said. “There are other avenues we’re going to pursue.”

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