Volume 75, Number 42 | March 8 -14 2006

Villager photo by Bob Arihood

EU, planning to open on E. Fourth St., has reportedly spent $1 million remodeling its space — including adding fancy Art Nouveau light fixtures outside — but the State Liquor Authority has rejected its application for a full liquor license.

S.L.A. rejection is hard to swallow for gastro pub

By Lincoln Anderson

East Villagers living on E. Fourth St. and lower Avenue B argued before the State Liquor Authority that they couldn’t stomach EU, a new gastro pub, being added to their neighborhood’s already oversaturated mix of bars, clubs and restaurants. And last week, in what residents and Community Board 3 hailed as a major victory, the S.L.A. denied an application for a liquor license by EU at 235 E. Fourth St.

Although the S.L.A. commissioners didn’t immediately state their reasons for the denial, the community’s quality-of-life concerns about traffic congestion and loud bar patrons undoubtedly were a major factor.

Susan Stetzer, C.B. 3 district manager, said the opponents put on a full-court press against the application.

“We spent a lot of time on this,” she said. “This was the result of many, many hours of hard work.” Stetzer said Deputy Inspector Dennis De Quatro, commanding officer of the Ninth Police Precinct, wrote a page-and-a-half letter opposing the application and that all the area’s elected officials also wrote letters against the license.

In addition, she said, articles by The Villager on the nightlife and traffic conditions on Avenue B — and the precinct’s crackdown on bar noise and taxi violations — also were a big help.

“The Villager played a huge part in my testimony against EU,” Stetzer said. “Particularly that Villager article with the mounted police [photo on the front page] — it was really hard to discount that. Even after the hearing, every time there was a photo in The Villager showing what was going on on Avenue B, I sent it up [to the S.L.A.].”

Stetzer said EU — owned by Bob Giraldi — is already applying for a beer-and-wine license, but that the opponents will wage their fight again to defeat it too.

“We’re going to submit the same testimony,” she said. “I don’t see anything different about it…. Nobody ever said these were bad people,” she added of the applicants. “It’s the wrong time at the wrong place.”

A lot of money was put into the EU space, despite the fact that it didn’t even have a liquor license yet. The place has a plate-glass garage-style door designed to open up, which particularly worried residents, who feared EU would be noisy.

Nightlife advocates frequently charge that residents should know better than to move in next to nightclubs. However, on Avenue B, it was the residents who were there first, and the bars that have come only in the last few years.

“This is not West Chelsea. This has always been a residential, a family area,” said Stetzer. “They can’t make the argument that people moved in here after the clubs.”

The location is also in a C.B. 3 liquor-license moratorium area — a block or street the board has designated as oversaturated with liquor licenses; when applications for liquor licenses are made in these areas, the board gives an automatic recommendation of denial.

Ellyce Di Paolo, who lives on W. Fourth St. near the EU location, said she’s still surprised the community won this round.

“It’s a real sort of David-and-Goliath story,” she said. “Hopefully, the S.L.A. will treat the application for the beer-and-wine license the same way they did the full liquor license.”

She noted the location, which was a storefront church before, is on a narrow street that would be inappropriate for a flood of taxi and limo traffic.

Frank Palillo, EU’s attorney, declined comment on the S.L.A.’s decision or the gastro pub’s next move.

However, Robert Bookman, attorney for the New York Nightlife Association, said EU is “looking for new counsel” and that he may be representing them from now on.

“If white-tablecloth restaurants are going to be rejected because of the geographic location — it’s absurd,” Bookman said of the EU decision. “It may be the last straw. If we’re starting to reject million-dollar restaurants we have a problem.

“The community board process has been getting out of hand the last few years,” Bookman charged. “There’s no conformity; each board has its own rules.

“The number of liquor licenses in New York City is barely growing,” he pointed out. “It’s an industry that’s in trouble. The crème of New York business is now going to Vegas and Miami, because the process here is so burdensome.”

Bookman said that, according to the S.L.A., for the last five years, New York City has seen only a 2 percent annual increase in liquor licenses, which lags behind the city’s economic growth.

As for residents’ quality-of-life complaints about nightlife and taxi honking on Avenue B, Bookman said it’s not the bars and nightclubs’ fault, pointing the finger a police for a lack of enforcement and for not allowing off-duty officers to be hired by bars and clubs to patrol the sidewalks in front of them.

Bookman said there may actually be some neighborhoods that have fewer bars today than they did in the past, while other neighborhoods have seen a boom in bars. But, in general, he feels the industry needs help.

“I’m not as concerned about the level [of bars and clubs] in a particular neighborhood,” he said. “It’s really boroughwide, citywide. Some neighborhoods get hot, some get cold.”

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