Volume 73, Number 47 | March 24 -30, 2004

Neighbors: Booze and pool hall are bad combination

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Saying they are tired of braving a gantlet of teenagers who gather outside a neighborhood pool hall, Elizabeth St. residents hope the State Liquor Authority will reject the owner’s application for a liquor license.

For the past year, neighbors of 128 Billiards at 128 Elizabeth St., between Grand and Broome Sts., have complained about the young crowds who assemble outside the pool hall, crowding sidewalks, talking loudly and occasionally harassing passersby.

“It’s a totally intimidating place,” said one resident who lives across the street from 128 Billiards. She said the teenagers sometimes spit at passersby. Like other residents interviewed by The Villager, she requested anonymity for fear of being identified by the youths or the establishment’s owner.

An attorney representing the owner appeared before the Business Committee of Community Board 2 earlier this month to request the board’s approval for a liquor license for the premises. Approximately 15 community members came to oppose the application.

“It’s a pretty bad situation even without the application for a liquor license,” said another block resident in a telephone interview. She also requested anonymity, saying she felt unsafe walking past the youths.

The committee voted unanimously to reject the liquor license application, and on March 18 the full board upheld its decision. Community boards act solely in an advisory capacity.

Kerry Katsorhis, the attorney representing the owner of 128 Billiards, said that his client and the community share the same goal of discouraging youths from clustering around the pool hall. And the best way to do that, Katsorhis said, is to offer a high-end product that they cannot buy: alcohol.

“He doesn’t want people there under the age of 21,” Katsorhis said.

But many in the community say that alcohol will only make the problem worse.

“As there have already been numerous problems with large crowds of young people hanging out at the establishment and being noisy, the addition of a liquor license is a recipe for disaster,” said Councilmember Alan Gerson, who represents the area, in a letter to the State Liquor Authority.

Some said that management should be more aggressive in dispersing the crowds from the premises. As many as 20 gather on a nice evening, and a sheet of paper on the door saying those under 18 cannot enter past 8 p.m. seems to be the only effort management has made to stem the problem, neighbors said.

“All you can do is politely ask people not to congregate out there,” Katsorhis said. He said his client was short on funds and was just “trying to make a go of it.”

While nightlife proprietors must make a good-faith effort to control their patrons as they exit and enter the premises, the police are ultimately responsible for regulating noise and other outdoor problems, according to city officials.

The liquor license application of 128 Billiards might hit a snag, because community members say it stands within 100 feet of the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the corner of Broome and Elizabeth Sts. If a liquor license applicant is found to be located within 200 feet of a school, a church or other religious institution then that is grounds for automatic disqualification, according to J. Mark Anderson, an S.LA. spokesperson.

Katsorhis said he has not filed his client’s liquor license application yet, and that his client still hopes for the community’s approval.

The application will “bear close scrutiny” to determine the pool hall’s proximity to the church, Anderson said.


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