Restaurants should not be collateral damage in bar wars
E.U. presented a perfect target: a new gastropub opening up in the bar-oversaturated East Village at a pivotal moment in the club/quality of life wars when the State Liquor Authority was finally listening to the community. An anti-E.U. petition stated subdued restaurants and cafes are one thing, but loud raucous late-night bars (possibly with live music and or video screens) are quite another.
We agree. The only problem is that E.U. is the former: a subdued establishment run by restaurateurs with a strong 20-year record of operating excellent, family-oriented restaurants, and not bars, lounges, clubs or velvet-rope discos. There is no outdoor garden at E.U., nor sidewalk cafe. Their kitchen and restaurant close when the nightlife scene in the East Village is just coming to life.
E.U. was denied its full liquor license at a hearing in March, and now they are applying for a beer and wine license in order to reopen, and stay afloat. The effort to deny E.U. this softer license is the wrong battle to fight in the struggle to control bar oversaturation in the East Village and Lower East Side. This is a fine, yet casual, restaurant and brings some new and interesting culinary choices to the neighborhood.
One might say that E.U. should have better assessed the risks of applying for a liquor license in the C.B. 3 moratorium area. But when legitimate restaurants are prevented from obtaining liquor licenses, and therefore surviving, the only survivors will be the clubs and lounges that already have licenses given during the period of the great S.L.A. slumber. A neighborhood cannot then make the transition from bars to a more diversified storefront economy and it will remain stuck as a bar ghetto.
The issue of potential license transfer and detrimental-use change is a legitimate concern that far transcends the E.U. case. E.U.s owners are willing to talk to the community about license-transfer stipulations and hours and other community concerns and we hope that the community will engage in this discussion.
This page has long been a supporter of working to force the S.L.A. to recognize that its indiscriminant granting of liquor licenses in bar-oversaturated neighborhoods is not in the public interest. We will continue that fight. But the real battle is enforcing existing regulations against renegade clubs in an expedited fashion, preventing any more clubs and bars from opening and creating the conditions that let the storefront economy diversify from clubs and bars.
The publisher of The Villager is a friend of Bob Giraldi and Patti Greaney and can vouch that their several Downtown restaurants, including Gigino Trattoria, BREADTribeca and Mercer Kitchen, are operated responsibly, contribute to their neighborhoods and are first and foremost restaurants, not bars.
We hope that rather than punishing E.U., the community will try to find common ground with these responsible restaurant owners. It does not help the legitimate cause to limit clubs and bars when one makes clubs and restaurants equivalent targets.