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

With noiseless staff and plates, new arts club wins backyard O.K.

By Albert Amateau

The founders of a London club whose members are drawn from the art world are planning a Manhattan version of the club in a landmarked row house on W. 14th St.

Alan Linn and Steve Ruggi, who operate the Citizens Arts Club in London, intend to convert the four-story house at 241 W. 14th St., into a private-membership club featuring sitting rooms, meeting space and a restaurant with a backyard dining area.

Community Board 4 last week voted to recommend a State Liquor Authority license for the club, to be called Norwood after the family that built the house in 1845.

Despite objections to the proposed backyard dining area by the Chelsea Village Partnership and the Council of Chelsea Block Associations, the community board voted on July 26 in favor of a liquor license after Linn and Ruggi agreed to operating conditions that would keep noise to a minimum in the outdoor dining area.

A maximum of five tables with four seats each would be available for backyard diners and the area would close at 10 p.m. The staff would be trained to serve diners with the least possible noise, and special polymer dishes that do not clatter like porcelain would be used.

However, Linn and Ruggi would not agree to a request by Bill Borock, president of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations, to build an enclosure for backyard diners. But the club owners dropped their original plan to add another story to the row house. The Landmarks Preservation Commission must approve any changes to the building.

Community members last week noted that the proposed Norwood is two doors away from McKenna’s Pub, 245 W. 14th St., which has been a frequent target of neighborhood complaints over the past several years regarding a noisy backyard area and occasional violence, including two killings five years ago.

“If McKenna’s is the nightmare of W. 14th St., Norwood would be heaven,” noted John Blair, a Board 4 member and a nightlife operator.

Linn, a partner in the Citizens Arts Club of London for the past 12 years, told the community board last week that Norwood will be like the National Arts Club located in the Tilden Mansion on Gramercy Park. Except for the backyard dining hours, Norwood would be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and 10 a.m. until midnight on Sunday.

The club would draw its membership from the creative arts professions in New York and would sponsor arts projects in partnership with community organizations.

Linn said that plans for the club are still being developed and was unable this week to provide information on the maximum number of members or when the club would open.

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