Villager photo by Elizabeth Proitsis
Two ground-floor businesses at 245 W. 14th St., McKenna’s Pub and Tequila’s bar and grill, were forced to close because the building is being razed for new construction.
C.B. 2 shoots down McKenna’s request for support
By Francesca Levy
When a W. 14th St. bar was faced with relocation, its owner had to appeal anew to neighbors that had not looked kindly on him in the past.
McKenna’s Pub was displaced from 245 W. 14th St. which is slated for demolition but its owner, Brian McKenna, didn’t have to look far for a new location. The bar is set to occupy a new space in 250 W. 14th St. across the street. And his neighbors, who in the past have complained about the bar’s noise and disorder, can’t be pleased.
By moving across the street, McKenna’s business, and his application for a license to operate a bar and restaurant, became the concern of Community Board 2, whereas he was previously under Community Board 4’s jurisdiction.
A new community board means a new opportunity, or so it might seem. But at its last full board meeting on Oct. 18, C.B. 2 was well aware of McKenna’s past troubles. And, according to Brad Hoylman, C.B. 2’s chairperson, McKenna’s presentation did little to ease their concerns.
“I think it’s important that business owners be prepared to speak when they address the full board,” Hoylman said. “And he could have been more prepared.”
McKenna acknowledged problems with his bar in the past, and said he was “trying to rectify” them.
But this was not enough reassurance for the board, which voted to recommend denial of the relocation of McKenna’s liquor license.
“The best predictor of how a bar owner will behave,” said Hoylman, “is his past behavior.”
But Hoylman added that the board did not issue an automatic rejection.
“We were willing to allow time to work out a solution,” he said. “But he did not accept. It will be up to the State Liquor Authority to make the final decision.”
A member of the W. 15th St. Block Association claimed to have pictures of patrons illegally drinking outside the establishment.
Joseph Jaffoni, a local business owner and resident, defended McKenna, saying, “You may have a picture of one instance, but Brian doesn’t serve alcohol on the sidewalk.”
McKenna has clashed with the block association before. At a February 2005 town hall meeting, neighbors spoke out against businesses that disrupted their quality of life, and McKenna’s was a chief target.
The following month, C.B. 4 voted to deny McKenna’s application for a liquor license to serve alcohol in the bar’s backyard.
And then there were the deaths. Among all of the other complaints, certainly the most bizarre have been two cases where individuals in McKenna’s bar died under unclear, if not nefarious, circumstances. Reports differ dramatically as to the details, but at least one of these was a shooting death. In the other instance, McKenna said, “A man locked his bike to the gate, went into the bathroom, came outside, and dropped dead.”
But other reports told of a man dying of stab wounds outside the bar.
“The facts were alarming,” said Hoylman, adding, “I don’t think McKenna and his team made a very good defense against the charges.”
Still, not everyone is opposed to McKenna’s business. Associates of McKenna came to support his application, including one who said: “He’s a great person. More people should be like him.”
And even chairperson Hoylman concedes that McKenna has done good things for the neighborhood.
“He does have a record of community service,” Hoylman said, “but we were narrowly focused on his liquor license.”
If the S.L.A. takes a broader view, McKenna may be given a chance to start fresh.