Last night’s Community Board 3 SLA & DCA Licensing Committee Meeting was a whopper, a six-hour endurance test of complaints, cat fights, and unintentional comic relief. Here are a few things that stood out:
1. Le Souk, the controversial restaurant/club/bar on Avenue B that had already lost its liquor license on more than one occasion, was up for a license renewal with complaint history. The neighbors who showed up to protest the renewal amply demonstrated that those complaints — of endless noise, traffic congestion, bad behavior by Le Souk’s patrons — were anything but history. After an hour or so of heated debate and multiple interruptions by two of Le Souk’s supporters, the committee voted to deny the application because the owners had failed to adequately address their neighbors’ concerns.
2. Cien Fuegos, a new Cuban restaurant from the Bourgeoise Pig/Death & Co.,’s Ravi DeRossi, is slated to open in the former Le Zoccole space at Avenue A and East 6th Street. The restaurant’s team, which also includes former 71 Clinton Fresh Food manager Miguel Calvo, collected 1,000 signatures of support from their neighbors, some of whom showed up to speak last night. The two-story restaurant will feature both casual and “extreme fine dining,” as well as a sandwich shop; the menu was created by executive chef Luis Gonzales, who formerly worked at Mercer Kitchen.
3. Christopher and Heather Tierney, who brought mixology to Doyers Street last fall with Apotheke, are now bringing Mexican tapas to the tiny block with Pulqueria. Their restaurant will supplant Doyers Vietnamese, the weirdly charming subterranean space that’s been there for years. Heather Tierney said they were asked to revamp the place by its owner, and added that they wanted a place for Apotheke’s customers to be able to eat (apparently Vietnamese food wasn’t to their liking?). The board voted to deny unless the owners operated the establishment strictly as a Mexican tapas restaurant.
4. The Mission Cafe on Second Avenue and East 5th Street is now owned by the same guy who owns the Atlas Cafe, and neighbors weren’t happy about his plans to extend the hours and extend seating to a sidewalk cafe. The board voted to deny the application unless the hours were scaled back and the place operated strictly as a full-service cafe.
5. Sidewalk cafes proved to be one of the more contentious subjects of the evening, drawing even more negative testimony than Le Souk. When the owner of the Thailand Cafe on Second Avenue came forward with his plan to create an unenclosed sidewalk cafe only feet from a bus shelter, several neighbors voiced their opposition: One woman railed against all restaurant owners with sidewalk cafes, proclaiming, “You’d move your own grandma” for a cafe and warning of the motorized wheelchair accidents that would result from the bus shelter’s close proximity. Unsurprisingly, the board voted to deny the application.
6. Neighbors were also vocal about their displeasure with Freemans, whose owners are planning to expand the restaurant to include a second-floor private dining and waiting area. Three extremely put-out residents of the block surrounding Freemans Alley complained of five years of noise from patrons and delivery men, said that the restaurant’s management had been unresponsive to their complaints, and warned that a private dining space would attract celebrities like “a screaming Hilary Duff.” After going back and forth for almost an hour, the board voted to deny the application based on community outcry, though as one board member pointed out, Freemans “isn’t going anywhere.”