Volume 76, Number 11 | August 2 - 8, 2006

Nightclub’s reopening is not music to board’s ears

By Janet Kwon

Mehanata Meyhane: rowdy club or cultural hub?

Mehanata’s new owner, Serdar Ilhan, says that along with the establishment’s new digs at 113 Ludlow St., it’s had an image swap as well.

“It used to be a very rowdy club,” Ilhan said of the old Mehanata on Canal St. He added that he wanted the new location’s image to be totally severed from the old one.

However, working with the Lower East Side Performance Arts, LLC, a group that promotes Turkish, Balkan and Gypsy culture in New York City, the theme will remain similar — focusing on all things related to these cultures. Mehanata Meyhane means, “wine bar” and “tavern” in Bulgarian and Turkish, respectively.

The main difference between the two? Whereas the first location was primarily a nightclub setting, the new Ludlow location would serve as a cultural center to promote Eastern European culture, which will include dance and music performances, food and drinks, said Ilhan.

“The new place is totally different.... It’s going to be all about music and culture,” he added. The remaining links between the new and old are the cabaret and liquor licenses that need to be transferred for Ilhan to open shop.

Ilhan’s new plans, however, may not see the light of day, since Community Board 3 recommended denial of these licenses at the full board meeting held July 25, where a group of approximately 20 Mehanata supporters, which included artists, residents and general fans of the club, showed up to show their allegiance.

“They [board members] listened, but I’m not sure that they understood,” Ilhan said.

During the public session portion of the meeting, Mehanata advocates described the facility as a “cultural center” that would encompass Turkish, Balkan and other Eastern European cultures, offering master classes in dance and music during the day and performance shows by night with the backdrop of a restaurant and bar.
However, C.B. 3 passed a resolution to deny Mehanata the licenses — stating that the overriding issue was the quality of life of the immediate community.

“This is an area that is well known to have a problem with late-night crowds and noise,” Susan Stetzer, C.B. 3’s district manager, said in a phone interview. “The concern was the impact of pedestrian and vehicular traffic and additional noise and that sort of thing on the streets.

“It was a concern about the additional traffic on the street; it was not a statement, one way or the other, about this particular venue,” Stetzer added.

During the meeting, however, Cem Sarioglu, Ilhan’s close family friend, said he felt the board should have given Mehanata more of a chance to present its case.

“They were so ready to say no; it was such a strange feeling. I understand their concern that they don’t want any bad things on their block, but in my opinion, it wasn’t fair,” Sarioglu said.

According to Alexandra Militano, chairperson of C.B. 3’s State Liquor Authority and Economic Development Committee, the main issues at hand were the already overcrowded and congested conditions on that part of Ludlow St., which would only be amplified with the addition of such a medium-to-large-scale business.

“There wasn’t sufficient assurance from the applicant as to how they would respond to these issues,” Militano said in a phone interview.

Militano also said that there was a discrepancy in what the applicant had presented at the S.L.A. Committee meeting regarding the building’s occupancy compared with what was presented at the full board meeting.

In C.B. 3’s resolution, one of the reasons cited for refusing Mehanata the licenses was that “there was reason to believe that the location, which has already had several nights of operation, will operate as a nightclub,” referring to printouts of an online blog that described drug use and rowdy partying at Mehanata’s reopening in June. Similarly, a recent review of the new space in New York magazine pined for “the old depravity” of the Bulgarian bar’s former location, but appreciatively noted the presence of the familiar “Get Naked, Get A Free Shot” sign “that encourages the sweaty swarm of fashion brats and ex-pats to get every bit as raw as their brick- and stone-walled surroundings.” New York described the music as “gypsy-style Euro stomp.”

Yet, according to Ilhan, Mehanata never had an official reopening. In fact, he said that he’s losing about $25,000 for every month he is not able to conduct business – since he is lacking the appropriate licenses. However, he has held private events in the Ludlow space for artists who wanted to hold after-parties there, but he emphasized that these events were not open to the public.

Ilhan said that his next step is to go to the State Liquor Authority directly.

“I’m sure there is more of a chance that people will understand more than the community board,” he said.

At the July 25 meeting, it was suggested that Mehanata apply for a beer and wine license instead of a full liquor license. However, with the money that he is already losing, Ilhan said that the process would drag out even longer, adding to the already prolonged delay.

Abe Burmeister, a designer who lives one door down from Mehanata’s new Ludlow locale, attended the meeting to support his new neighbors.

“They’re making a short-sighted decision,” Burmeister said of the board’s resolution, adding, “I can’t say that I was very impressed with the people who are supposed to be leading the community.

“[Mehanata] is very unique and plays incredible music. They’re bringing culture around the world that I have no access to. There’s nothing else like it in New York,” Burmeister said.

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