Crashing Studio B's Garden Party
Upon opening in September of 2006 under the discerning eye (and ear) of Justine Delaney, Brooklyn nightclub Studio B immediately established itself as a stylish source for the latest in dance, rock, and hip-hop. That hasn't changed. The 9,000-square-foot converted warehouse boasts a full stage, an incredible sound system, a VIP lounge, and a great dance floor—an increasingly rare element across the river. And it's a club where the bartenders actually smile. Even when the hipper-than-thou crowd doesn't.
Now the venue is expanding—skyward. On May 2, Studio B is slated to celebrate the debut of a large rooftop level, including its own bar and sound system, with live performances by Brazilian Girls and Spank Rock. Forty imported palm trees will serve as a nod to Studio B's sister club in Miami, Studio A; a retractable glass roof ensures a South Beach climate year-round. As Studio B has staked its reputation on offering the opposite of a pricey, smug Manhattan lounge, I'd expect some fans of the club to balk at the opening's $35 cover charge. Fans of a cleaner, quieter Greenpoint (as in: the neighborhood's residents), though, balk at the opening altogether.
According to them, Studio B's patrons forever vomit show flyers, cigarette butts, and broken glass (and occasionally actual vomit) onto the streets surrounding the club. Sometimes the atmosphere is even worse—at least one brutal streetfight broke out in broad daylight during the all-day, hardcore-centric Black & Blue Bowl that the club hosted on a recent Saturday. But many of Studio B's neighbors agree that the noise is the worst problem of all.
"It's terrible," complains a 44-year-old former music writer of her apartment's proximity to Studio B. "Every other bar or club posts signs that say, 'Please respect our neighbors' or 'Please be quiet to and from'—there's none of that here. There are just continual hordes of people who only see [Studio B] as a destination—people who know nothing of the neighborhood and think the club's in the middle of nowhere. They think, 'It's industrial, I can scream and yell all I want.' We're not human to them. It just doesn't register . . . And you can already hear the music, especially in summer when the doors are open. Now they're going to open the whole roof up?"
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"Going around the corner to smoke a joint or have a drink or exchange something before the show—and then the extended drunken goodbyes—we hear all of that," she continues. "And they'll pee anywhere. I mean, what do they think? That's a business. Guys eat their lunches on those steps . . . [A rooftop deck] is only going to draw even more people to the area who say, 'Who cares about Greenpoint?' "
For their part, Studio B's management says that they'll do what they can to contain the noise. "The scale and times of the sound system on the roof are still TBD, because Studio B is aware that they must be courteous to neighbors in regard to sound levels on the roof during the nighttime hours," a spokesperson for the club writes in an e-mail. "This will always be an issue nightclubs must deal with to stay in business in New York City."
Another big issue for nightclubs, though, especially as of late: community boards. The Sun reported last week that CBs wielding clout with the State Liquor Authority (SLA) are more often requesting that potential liquor licenses be tied to earlier closing times, often at or before 2 a.m. (The paper added that in November, December, and January—the three most recent months in Community Board 3's records—not a single liquor-license recommendation was granted to a bar that would close after 3 a.m. in the East Village or Lower East Side.) On March 26, the SLA posted a notice on its website that in addition to liquor-license renewals, bars and clubs are now also required to file 30 days' prior notice with their respective community boards of their intention to renew. And now, unhappy residents of Greenpoint are suggesting on community blogs that like-minded citizens inundate their own community board (CB1) with noise- and permit-violation complaints to see action.
As it happens, the New York Department of Buildings currently has two open complaints for Studio B with regard to construction without permits (one filed April 11, another on April 16), as well as one unrelated pending violation for a March 8 inspection, which found the club filled beyond its legal capacity. (According to the document, the first floor of Studio B is permitted a maximum of 461 persons; at the time of inspection, there were "over 650.")
That's the one that has "Miss Heather," the blogger behind NewYorkShitty.com, up in arms. "That violation disturbs me so much," she says. "If they're allowed 450 or so people, and they're packing in 650—well, I haven't done the math, but isn't that nearly 50 percent? I have concerns about management that has such a complete lack of regard for the safety of their patrons. I agree that we need bars and clubs in the area. But at what cost?"
I ask if it's an actual possibility that CB1 could do anything to cause Studio B to lose its liquor license. "It happened with Triple Crown," Heather responds, referring to the troubled Williamsburg lounge that closed last year after racking up thousands of dollars in noise-violation fines. "They netted enough complaints with CB1 that they had to close. If this rooftop garden proves to be that much of a nuisance, then yeah, the community will go after the club's liquor license. It's already been run past the board; it's out there. They're already doing work without a permit."
According to Studio B's spokesperson, that isn't the case. "Some permitting is still in process, but this is very common with the opening of any type of venue or restaurant in New York City," he says. The official party line: "Everything should be good to go for May 2."
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