West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 4 | June 27 - July 3, 2007

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

A couple exited a cab at midnight last Saturday between Third and Fourth Sts. on Avenue B while, across the street, a line of people waited outside Le Souk. Along with neighboring clubs, Le Souk has brought increased nighttime congestion and honking to narrow Avenue B.

Le Souk’s foes are in the market for new solutions

By Alyssa Giachino

In the face of anger from neighbors over noise and other problems they say are being fueled by the popular East Village nightclub Le Souk, police have offered to step up enforcement efforts on lower Avenue B while the club’s owners have agreed to meet with the E. Fourth St. Block Association.

At the Ninth Precinct Community Council meeting on Tues., June 19, a steady stream of residents complained of excessive noise, traffic congestion, drunk drivers and belligerent bouncers associated with Le Souk, the North African-themed club at 47 Avenue B.

Neighbor Samira Ahmed said she had called everyone she could think of to complain about the noise. The double-pane windows she installed in her sixth-floor apartment at Third St. and Avenue B haven’t muffled the din. Ahmed said she has repeatedly called 311, as well as Community Board 3, Councilmember Rosie Mendez and Le Souk itself, where, she said, a staff person used a profanity and suggested she was probably only whining because she’d been turned away from the less-than-exclusive velvet ropes.

“It’s a swarm of people on the street and there needs to be better control,” Ahmed said. “Le Souk needs to be more responsible, and there’s not enough police presence.”

Deputy Inspector Dennis De Quatro, the precinct’s commanding officer, said traffic flow had improved since curbside parking was lifted on weekends last December, though he agreed that more enforcement may be needed.

“If we don’t stay on top of it, like anything, things tend to go backward,” he told the packed room.

However, De Quatro noted that police action is not the only solution to neighbors’ complaints, and encouraged residents to reach out directly to the club’s owners, brothers Sam and Marcus Jacob, who nodded in affirmation from the back of the room.

As a business, “they have a responsibility that’s ratcheted higher than John Q. Citizen,” De Quatro said.

Sam Jacob offered his cooperation, saying, “If the police or the community have any recommendations, we can meet, we can work with them.”

Ellyce di Paola, who heads the E. Fourth St. Block Association, told The Villager that Sam Jacob agreed to attend a meeting with her group, a new development she is optimistic about.

“We see a chance for dialogue and having the issues of the neighborhood addressed,” she said.

Even if Le Souk smoothes relations with its neighbors in the short term, it still faces pending charges at the State Liquor Authority, which has been compiling complaints on the club since 2003. Le Souk’s alcohol license expired in December 2006, and the S.L.A. will not authorize a renewal until pending charges are resolved. In the meantime, the club continues to operate with a temporary state allowance under the State Administrative Procedure Act, or SAPA.

But Le Souk has sued the S.L.A. over a 10-day suspension order the club was given in April, along with a $12,000 fine for various building and fire code violations and license infractions. The club won a stay on the suspension and fine; on June 22, there was a hearing in State Supreme Court, the ruling from which has not yet been released.

The license renewal is on hold at the S.L.A. until the civil court process reaches a resolution.

Clashes between businesses and residents are ongoing in the heavily residential neighborhood that simultaneously is a coveted destination for clubgoers. Though other clubs along lower Avenue B, such as CarneVale — also owned by the Jacob brothers — and China One, contribute to the general din and activity, Le Souk has long been a magnet for complaints.

“We get more complaints about that place than anyplace else,” Susan Stetzer, C.B. 3’s district manager, told The Villager. “It’s definitely getting worse, not better.”

Neighbors say there are an array of spillover problems emanating from the club — patrons who literally take spills on the sidewalk, stumble down the street for a slice of pizza, vomit in gutters, compete for parking and hail honking cabs.

“There’s such a saturation of establishments that we have way too many people coming in and our streets can’t accommodate them,” Stetzer said.

At the community council meeting, neighbors also identified drunk driving as a problem. Joel Rebollo said inebriated patrons have scraped parked cars on E. Fourth St., where he lives.

“With them coming out of that establishment drunk, it’s very dangerous for all of us,” he said.

De Quatro assured residents that police are equipped with breathalyzers, and that he will focus more attention on the side streets, rather than just the avenues.

At the meeting, the bouncers employed by Le Souk were the target of several complaints for rude behavior toward residents and failure to control crowds.

“The bouncers are there talking to girls, having fun, not being bouncers,” said Rosalinda Gibbs, of E. Fourth St. “Our quality of life is being interrupted. This is still a residential area, even though it has come a long way in the last 10 years.”

Marcus Jacob told The Villager the club has 10 bouncers, all of whom are licensed security guards, but, he added, “It’s so hard to find the right people.”

He insisted that he is part of the neighborhood, where he is raising a 20-month-old child. The brothers live in separate apartments on Avenue B.

“It’s not like we’re running away to our island,” Marcus Jacob said. “We do the best we can.”

Kevin Rose, a tenant association president on E. Fourth St., suggested Le Souk contribute to community organizations to offset the club’s negative impacts.

“Some of the restaurant owners, to be more popular, support the youth,” he pointed out.

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