Volume 75, Number 38 | February 8 -14 2006

Board says club above Scores would add to problems

By Albert Amateau

West Chelsea, where more than 20 clubs are clustered with a total capacity for more than 10,000 patrons, could become the home of yet another nightlife venue that would occupy the third floor and roof above an existing club.

The owners of the proposed club and their landlord came to the Community Board 4 meeting last week seeking a recommendation for a new State Liquor Authority license.

But the board at its Feb. 1 meeting heeded the pleas of neighbors and the warning from 10th Precinct police that the proposed club at 536 W. 28th St. could be the last straw for the beleaguered block between 10th and 11th Aves.

Barbara Sullivan of 503 W. 27th St. told the board, “There is vomiting and urination in the street and it’s dangerous to walk home at night. We don’t want any new clubs and please don’t renew liquor licenses that expire. Give us our block back.”

The community board, whose role is strictly advisory, voted to recommend that no liquor license be issued for the as yet unnamed club above Scores, an adult-entertainment venue whose principal John Neilson has agreed to rent the third floor and roof of the building to Scott Sartiano and Richard Akiva, who want to run the new place.

The board voted overwhelmingly against a liquor license on the grounds that 28th St. between 10th and 11th Aves. is oversaturated with licensed premises, with four nightclubs on the south side of the street that can hold more than 5,000 patrons and one on the north side with a capacity for more than 500 revelers.

Sartiano and Akiva didn’t say what their specific business plan for the space was.

The vote reversed a reluctant Jan. 10 recommendation by the board’s Business Licenses and Permit Committee to approve the liquor license if the applicants agree to conditions, including soundproofing the interior and devising a sound system for the roof “such that music, ventilation and patron noise will not be audible by neighbors.”

The proposed conditions included a traffic-management plan and valet parking to avoid further congestion of an already taxi-choked street, employment of licensed and bonded security personnel to prevent underage drinking, no music on the roof after 11 p.m. weeknights and after 2 a.m. on weekends and periodic attendance at community board meetings by the owners.

Neilson, a principal in Scores Holding Company, Inc., told the board that Scores has a reputation for being “the best-run club in the city.” He said he was sure that Sartiano and Akiva would run their club in a way that would not tarnish Scores’s reputation.

But Mike Patrillo, community affairs officer of the 10th Precinct, which covers Chelsea and deploys a cabaret squad to keep order and traffic flowing, warned that the blocks from 26th to 29th Sts. are already jammed with club goers.

“We would be adding another thousand people where clubs have a capacity for 10,000 people — and that number doesn’t include people waiting to get into clubs and cabs and limos cruising for customers,” Patrillo said. He also noted that some of the agreements that the committee called for, like limits on the hours of music on the roof and employing licensed and bonded security personnel, are required by law.

In an unrelated criminal indictment this week, Scores Entertainment Inc. on W. 27th St. was named a corporate defendant in a criminal indictment charging falsifying tax and business records to evade taxes on income of $3.1 million. Two partners in the company were charged but Neilson was not a defendant.

For the past several years the Department of City Planning encouraged nightlife operators to open in the western reaches of Chelsea where clubs and adult-entertainment uses are allowed in a manufacturing zone dominated by warehouses with very few residents, noted Ed Kirkland, co-chairperson of the community board’s Chelsea Planning and Preservation Committee.

Rezoning, however, has legalized residences in what has become “club land,” and the conflict was apparent at the Feb. 1 community board meeting where residents pleaded successfully with the board to vote “no” on a liquor license for the proposed two-level club.

“City Planning has told us the problem would resolve itself because residential use always drives out nightlife, but it hasn’t,” Kirkland said.

While the State Liquor Authority has historically been willing to grant liquor licenses to premises within 500 feet of three other licensed places on the grounds that they serve the “public interest,” the authority recently has begun to reject them. Michelle Solomon, C.B.4 acting district manager, told the board that the authority has turned down three such new license applications in the past three months.

The board intends to consider adopting a liquor license moratorium policy, similar to one adopted by Community Board 3 for parts of the East Village and Lower East Side, which would issue blanket recommendations of “no license” for areas deemed oversaturated with licensed premises.

The board last week also endorsed new traffic and parking rules proposed by the 10th Precinct to ease the severe traffic congestion caused by the concentration of clubs from 10th Ave. west between 27th and 29th Sts.
The rules that the board wants the Department of Transportation to impose include:

No standing 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on the south side of 27th and 28th Sts., 10th to 11th Aves. and on the west side of 10th Ave. between 26th and 28th Sts. The no-standing zone would also include the north side of 27th St. from the corner of 10th Ave. to 100 feet to the west.

No parking 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday (allowing overnight parking requested by residents) on the east side of 11th Ave. from 26th to 28th Sts. and on the south side of 27th St. between 11th and 12th Aves.

No horn honking on 27th and 26th Sts between 10th and 11th Aves. and on 10th Ave. between 26th and 28th Sts.

The proposed rules would also reverse the direction of 27th St. between 10th and 11th Aves. from westbound to eastbound.

The board’s transportation planning resolution acknowledges that the proposed traffic and parking changes are “somewhat experimental” and would be revisited and changed if they do not work as intended.

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