Volume 76, Number 10 | July 26 - August 1, 2006

It’s name was Lola, it didn’t get a beer and wine license

By David Spett

Cajun-creole restaurant and jazz lounge Lola, 15 Watts St., was rejected for a beer and wine license by the S.L.A. on June 28.

“We’re disappointed, but we pretty much expected it, and we intend to appeal, and we will win,” said Tom Patrick-Odeen, co-owner of Lola.

The restaurant had been located at 30 W. 22nd St. since 1985, but when landlords wanted to double the rent, Patrick-Odeen and his wife, Gayle Patrick-Odeen, the restaurant’s co-owner, decided to move to Watts and Thompson Sts.

The Patrick-Odeens closed their Chelsea location in June 2004 and put $500,000 into renovating their new Soho location, they said, but it has never opened.

The New York Times gave the 22nd St. Lola a two-star rating, meaning “very good.”

On Nov. 17, 2005, New York Supreme Court Judge Marilyn Shafer overturned the S.L.A.’s decision to grant Lola a liquor license. Shafer cited the 500-foot rule, which states that the S.L.A. cannot issue liquor licenses if there are already three or more licensed establishments within a 500-foot radius, unless doing so is found to be “in the public interest.”

The 500-foot rule does not apply to beer and wine licenses. The S.L.A. denied Lola the beer and wine license because it was not in the public interest, said Bill Crowley, an S.L.A. spokesperson.

“We never thought things would escalate to this level,” Gayle Patrick-Odeen said. “We never assumed we would have any problems.”

Community Board 2 and the Soho Alliance both opposed any alcohol license for Lola. Sean Sweeney, the Soho Alliance director, expressed pleasure with the S.L.A.’s latest rejection.

“To deny what some people consider innocuous — a beer and wine [license] — is another sign of the new S.L.A. waking up to the demands of the community. It’s quite a sea change in their attitude,” Sweeney said. “We had a lot of people saying, ‘We don’t want this place.’”

Sweeney said the restaurant is inappropriate in the area and harmful to residents because Watts St. is often backed up with Holland Tunnel traffic. He added that the area’s zoning is improper and that Lola’s owners had not proposed sufficient sound mitigation.

Gayle Patrick-Odeen countered by charging that the Soho Alliance lied to the State Supreme Court.

“We hired private investigators to take a look at the list of petitioners, because we were always concerned about it from the very onset,” she said, adding that investigators found the Soho Alliance had inflated the number of signatures on its petitions.

Lola’s owners, who said they will not be able to open their restaurant without an alcohol license, said their petition in support of Lola garnered 585 signatures from Soho residents.

When asked why C.B. 2 and the Soho Alliance opposed their alcohol license applications, Gayle Patrick-Odeen, a woman of color, charged that racism might have been a factor.

“My husband and I have been fighting for our livelihood,” she said. “I believe that justice will be served at the end of the day.”

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