Monday, June 16, 2008


When one thinks of the SLA one thinks of Patty Hearst, not the State Liquor Authority. But I must now re-educate my brain. I went to the SLA committee meeting of my local community board, and while I didn't really think that the topic would be 1970's terrorism, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. However, if I had known what to expect I might not have gone. I don't think I have the stamina to sit through a 5 hour meeting on a Monday night.

It was interesting to watch the restaurateurs selling themselves, explaining why they deserve to have a sidewalk cafe or a liquor license when none of their neighbors want them to have it. This topic has actually been quite controversial in the East Village as bars and restaurants have been the only tenants that can apparently afford the ridiculous rents. Therefore we now have no butcher or fishmonger, and declining fresh vegetable stores. Where there used to be a Korean market on every corner, and a bodega on every other corner, there are now bars, restaurants and also lots of coffee shops where young people go to catch up on their typing.

The good news is that several of the applicants were denied. I stayed for almost 2 hours and they had been through only 6 applications so it is entirely possible that they deny all the first applicants, and then when the members of the community leave, they start giving them out left and right. It's the only way to explain the proliferation of bars.

The meeting\It was in a big rec room, hard to hear, too many people chatting, and I think the board was purposefully speaking softly, especially in the parts after the denial motion was approved, when there was a lot of one on one with the applicant which I believe was the board telling them how to appeal the decision. Hard to tell. Next time I will have to sit right up front to get the whole story. Also I will bring a pen, which I neglected to do so I couldn't take notes. Therefore, this report is completely subject to my drug-addled memory.

The first couple of cases were quite interesting. Frank got up and argued loudly (thank you Frank you are the only one I could hear), insisting that nobody ever complained about the noise emanating from his very popular restaurant. The committee chair raised her hand and said that she was in fact complaining right then and there because every time she passes his place the sidewalk is jammed with too many people and the noise is so offensive she won't go inside. Frank has refused to close his big windows at 10:00 as they had required, and also to keep the waiting patrons off the sidewalk. He insists they don't want to leave, they want to be seen in front of his restaurant. Which actually doesn't sound illogical for this neighborhood.

The other interesting applicant was trying to get a sidewalk cafe permit but he neglected to include the required petitions signed by neighbors that they have been notified of his application, and would like to have a sidewalk cafe on their block. He blamed his manager who filled out the form. Then he insisted that he could go out RIGHT NOW and get 500 signatures by the end of the night. Everybody started to shout "then go, go now, get out of here and go" as it was taking so long and the committee was not going to approve his permit without the petitions. Of course this guy didn't want to wait another month to apply again, as the summer is ticking by. Why did he wait until the last minute to apply? I have no idea, maybe it was his manager's bright idea.

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