Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Know Your Barkeep

At yesterday's 9th precinct meeting I met one of the other owners of local jello shot hot spot Destination. I had no idea there were other owners besides the man I have been cautioned against calling anything but his given name, and not the word using the type of pork he advertised in the 1970's combined with a word that means "young man."

This other owner is Dan Maccarone, and we don't have a nickname for him. Yet. Dan has the appearance of a very young man, young enough that you think to yourself "he's too young to go to a bar never mind own one," but obviously he's older than he appears because he is also owner of a web design firm that shares its office in the Village Voice building with Curbed and Foursquare. An apparent triad of whiz kids attempting to take over the interwebs.

Last week the company I work for did a promotion with Jetsetter, and it turns out that Mr. Maccarone's company designed the Jetsetter website. I consider this a coincidence of gigantic proportions and only wish I knew about it before I met him so that I would have had something conversational to say to him.

According to Amateur Gourmet, Mr. Maccarone wanted to own a bar his whole life and Destination was a dream come true, despite the work they had to put in to make it usable. In this interview, he shares three lessons he learned about opening a bar in New York. The first lesson was about the ins and outs of New York politics, followed by a list of five additional lessons. Perhaps one of the things he didn't learn was how to count how many things he learned. This was the lesson I liked the most. And by recently adding a "late night menu" after nearly a year in business, they appear to be sticking to what they promised. (See here for what they promised.)
Community Board 3 is loathe to add any more bars to the East Village.
In the process of getting our approval, I watched other restaurants with just as much drive and excitement about their creations get rejected. Sometimes it was because their venues were too close to others. Sometimes people from the community were there to oppose any new venues on their streets. One community member was at the board meeting just to complain about another recently opened bar they felt was already causing trouble. If one thing was clear, we were going to have to stick to everything we promised the community board, because the only time anyone was going to put our name in front of them was to complain.
You can find out more about these three company's shared office and see their cafeteria-style space that looks like it would be like working inside a busy bar here.

If I was a real journalist I would have tried to interview him. But I'm not. Sorry.

17 comments:

Dan said...

Hi Jill-

It was nice meeting you at the precinct the other night. Looks like Google can only get you so far, so I'm happy to fill in some if the blanks.

I am 33 years old and have lived in the EV for almost 12 years now - 5 of those years were spent on East 13th street.

While I certainly have not been hiding my status as a partner at Destination for the past year, Mason, as managing partner, does run things on a day to day basis. However, I do bartend every Sunday with my wife (another partner in the bar) and have been fortunate to meet quite a number of our neighbors who come in and spend many an afternoon chatting with myself and each other. Meeting and befriending members of the neighborhood - some who have been here 30 years and some just a few weeks - has been one of the most rewarding parts of opening another business in the area.

That said, the polarizing views that our neighbors take on the recent influx of bars disturbs me greatly. On one hand, as a resident of the area I totally agree that we need to work to ensure that the quality of life for residents should be preserved and it's important that we work together to ensure that.

Where I am disappointed is where communication between residents and businesses has broken down to a point where there is so much animosity and frustration that it almost prevents people from sitting down and having an actual conversation. After watching the call to arms at the garden meeting last week (Mason and I were both there) it was nice to actually talk with a few neighbors who, once calmed down, voiced their concerns about noise but also acknowledged that there are benefits to having places like us around too. In the end, it was a matter of us working together to understand the problems we all face to find a solution.

I love living here and I love having watched my neighborhood evolve over the past decade into such a social and livable place - so much more so than it was when I moved in. I'd like to keep it a community and a friendly one at that.

I am happy to talk to anyone and answer any questions about myself or the bar. Please feel free to email me: dmaccarone@gmail.com or visit me at the bar some Sunday afternoon.

Ryan on Avenue A said...

I've been hesitant to get involved with commenting about Destination on any of the neighborhood blogs for two reasons. 1> I now live at the other end of Avenue A (after having lived at 14th and A). And 2> My only experience with Destination is on Sunday afternoons where my girlfriend and I would often go for lunch/brunch. Dan and Mel are two of the most gracious hosts on Avenue A. I like the vibe, I like the food (Dan makes a killer bloody mary), and I like the people there. That said, I don't know what the Fri/Sat night crowd is like, but I can infer from what I read that it's occasionally noisy. What I can't imagine is that if someone went in to talk to these guys that there'd be any of the dickheadedness that we see from other bar owners. I guess I'll also throw in that I have nothing to do with the bar, other than liking it.

Jill said...

Hi Dan - thanks for the information and boy you do not look 33! I think that means you will live a long life.

There are those that would disagree that North Avenue A has become more livable in recent years. For many it is much less livable having to deal with the incredible and constant volume of noise and crowds all night long right outside their windows.

Not that long ago the noise was relegated to early weekend mornings in the summer when the local men would wash their cars with salsa music blasting. Or the blast of shouting that would erupt when someone won a game of dominoes, but rarely past midnight. In other words, it was occassional, not constant. And they were here first and that was respected.

There was a pleasure to living in a quiet section and being able to walk only a few blocks for the nightlife. We were very very lucky, having the best of both worlds, and our worlds have collided. You might understand why we want to try to preserve what drew us to this neighborhood, and why we've stayed here so long.

I would also disagree that it's more sociable now. We have historically had a very sociable neighborhood, with great people who literally made it what it is, and what attracted you to come here in the first place. The society here wasn't driven by thousands of crowded bars. The bars were (and still are) a gathering place, but the heart of the 'hood came from people's lives beyond drinking. Nobody had money to drink in bars every night. We had to stay home and drink.

For example, my building has a group of people who live there because they were in a band together in 1985 and have remained friends, and friends of friends ever since. Down the street is a building full of people that formed a co-op in the mid-80's, chipping in for very little money, but becoming stakeholders in the neighborhood. Almost all of them still live there. Every block has stories like that.

The gardens and the parks were built by your neighbors banding together, squats and finding affordable housing brought people together. The artists, musicians and writers have been partying together for a generation. Many have now left (or died) but many still remain. They have been replaced by a very different character, and that is what is changing the neighborhood, more than the bars.

We've been harassed by landlords for so long, but that too comes in waves. Every few years a building changes owners or managers, an owner defaults there is a big effort to turn over the apartments to raise the rents. The retail changes in the neighborhood sometimes feels like an assault from all sides.

Times change, neighborhoods change, we know that. I know we can work together to alleviate some of the stress. It's imperative if we want to live in peace, which is all we want.

Personally, I am eager for resolution and to find something different to complain about :)

Jill said...

Ryan - Destination has been good about showing up at meetings and trying to engage and gets credit for that, big time.

Their problems stem from two things - they have those giant windows that they were keeping open well past midnight, and the crowds that gather on the sidewalk create a din and congestion that is not pleasant if you are a resident. It's mostly smokers and cell phone talkers, but it's also people just standing there waiting for their friends to show up, or deciding where to go next, or making out or whatever people do when they are in crowds.

These are very difficult problems that honestly nobody knows how to solve. But closing the windows and door earlier is a HUGE step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

The bars have really destroyed the quality of life here. Remember when Destination was an Italian restaurant? It was called Oggi. Good food but didn't last.

One of the big problems with Destination is the windows. It would really help to close them up and build walls with soundproofing. I can't believe that's not required by the city.

I know bar owners don't lose sleep over things like this but there are people with kids in that building and neighboring buildings. It isn't just adults not getting a good night's sleep. It's kids.

To their credit, at least the guys from Destination show up at meetings. But all of these bar owners have to be proactive and create spaces that don't interfere with the quality of life for everyone around them. We shouldn't have to beg them to do it.

Dan said...

Anonymous--

I have to say I think that's a bit unfair and points back to my problem, earlier, with the approach that the neighborhood takes to the problems.

We have spoken with the neighbors and agreed to close the windows at 10 on the weekdays and 11 on the weekends. The great thing is that it's something we worked with out neighhibors to agree upon- to make sure we all agreed.

I'm sorry, but the idea that we don't lose sleep about this is ridiculous. This is exactly what I lose sleep about. As Jill pointed out - we are making sure we close our windows at the agreed times and I am making sure I can discuss and work out the issues our neighbors have.

I can't speak for other bar owners, but I think it's unfair you group us together. It's not in the benefit of us who are running businesses to be responsible for those who don't care and it is also not fair to you have a general enemy when we should all be working together.

I'm sorry to say, but this kind of comment is exactly the problem I have with the community. I live her. I want us to work together and we are actually trying to do that. If we can help make that better, great. But I also know our neighbors feel the same way about owners who don't care.

Wouldn't it be better if we worked together? If anything, that creates more of the community I'm talking about. If we are all looking out for the same thing, we all win.

Dan said...

apologies for the typos. :)

Anonymous said...

Dan, I appreciate your communication and efforts to listen to your neighbors. And you are correct about the grouping of bar owners. It is unfortunate that you opened around the time super douche did. And I have noticed the porter for your place and D.O.S cleaning the sidewalks in the morning . Your effort makes you different than the rest, and it is a nice change !

Anonymous said...

Dan,

You might be different, but my friends and I who live in the neighborhood and have been here for 20 years or more have had serious issues with bar owners in the last few yeares who could care less about quality of life for the residents. A few of my friends have actually been threatened when they've dared to complain more than a few times about a particular bar, and the guys at Mundial and it's previous incarnation, Totem, would listen to complaints and act like they couldn't wait to comply then laugh when people left. I know this because I had a friend who bartended there. It shouldn't even get to the point where we have to complain because a) there shouldn't be so many bars on one strip in a residential neighborhood and b) bar owners should have to do serious soundproofing to their spaces. I am really tired of these people who are trying to be cool and own a bar just coming in and doing whatever they want. It's not right. And not everyone is thrilled with Destination's closing it's windows at 11 p.m. on weekends. If you lived upstairs, it wouldn't be enough for you or your wife.

Dan said...

Honestly, I think any business owner wo laughs at its neighbors or customers deserves whatever comes to them. That's not the way I run either of my businesses.

As for our windows, in talking with the people who came to the meeting in the garden, we reached a compromise to close the windows at 10 during the week and 11 on the weekends. I totally understand about the noise and we do try to keep it down.

Regarding soundproofing - I'm with you there. We are actually looking into ways to improve our soundproofing for the speakers so that the bass doesn't resonate to the apartments above us. It's something we are aware of and we are looking for the right solution.

Anonymous said...

It's crazy that we as long-time residents have to reach "a compromise" with a bar owner so that we can get some sleep. So sad what the neighborhood has become. God forbid any of these guys open real businesses that add to the fabric of the neighborhood.

NYC taxi photo said...

a bar not adding to the fabric of the neighborhood? you know, i feel mixed about this. on the one hand I'd hate to live in a noisy neighborhood filled with drunk people who don't think about people getting sleep. on the other hand, I feel the internet lately has been filled with the most spoiled people this city has to offer. you know you should try living out on the other end of brooklyn someday. there is no noise out there, there is also no food, no good bars, no good people. this is the hand you are delt, if you don;t like it, leave.

what's more. why do all these people comment anonymously??

NYC taxi photo said...

I'm sorry, I do believe people should complain about their problems, and it makes the east village the great place that it is. It just sounds rather spoiled sometimes, being that i'd give anything to actually have residence in manhattan again, where i can have access to so many great bars, and coffee shops, and health food stores. it is more the generalization that gets to me, when people start turning one person into the enemy, it's one step close to all those terrible isms e.g. fascism, in a world where everybody holds and maintains order, that would be a world very far from the east village in my pov.

Anonymous said...

NYC taxi photo,

When commenting about the bar situation, I know my friends do it anonymously to avoid retribution. Not all bar owners are nasty, but there are a few in the hood that are. Also, we're not complaining about all bars. Many of us have lived here for 20 years and more and enjoy the bars in the area but there is a new crop that has sprung up in recent years, run by people that are out to make a quick buck and don't care about being good neighbors. There is also the case of just having too much of what is a good thing in moderation. Try living on a block with three bars on it. You think we're whiners but if you lived over or across the street from one of these bars and couldn't sleep to save your life you'd be complaining too. Why don't we move? Can you afford to just pick up and move whenever you want? If you can good for you but that's not the case for most New Yorkers.

We also have to "whine" and make our voices heard because we don't have the funds the bar owners have to hire lawyers to get us whatever we want.

Dan said...

Hi All--

One small point of clarification here beyond the noise complaints and whatnot. There's been chatter on this blog and others about the desire for more and pop shops in the hood and it seems like everyone views us bars as corporate giants with deep pockets. The thing is, with few exceptions, most of us are pretty much mom and pop shops that are paying bills like everyone else. Sure we have an attorney. We also have an accountant and we have employees we have to pay - porters, chefs, etc.

Just like I think the argument of "if you don't like it, then leave" is not a valid one, I also don't think it's a valid argument to say that we're this rich corporate monsters. Most bars in the area are owned by individuals or a few people.

The ones that are in to make a quick buck tend to be in and out and, I wholeheartedly agree, they cause a lot of the problems. But for those of us who are here for the long-haul, we are not JUST businesses, we are members of the community, we are your neighbors too. We just want to be treated as such and make sure we can live together.

Anonymous said...

If the new bars want to be treated as "neighbors," they have to act like good neighbors from the start. I realize they can't control how their patrons act once they hit the street but the bar owners could run establishments that from the get go respect their neighbors by keeping the noise inside the bar. Imagine if a new neighbor moved into your building and continually blasted music? You're not going to get along with that neighbor. Same deal with the bars. They shouldn't have to be negotiated with. Just be respectful from the beginning. They should keep in mind that the people from outside the neighborhood and college kids who frequent these places at the moment are transient. If you want to build a bar that's going to last for years and years you have to appeal to the neighbors. Be a good neighbor without us asking. It'll work out better for you in the long run!

Anonymous said...

People seem to forget that the East Village is largely a residential neighborhood. Yes, people--actual people--live here and they need to sleep so they can go to work and function and support their themselves. With all these bars the northern part of Avenue A is turning into a pit. It is so depressing walking along the strip between 12th and 14th on a Sunday morning and seeing the aftermath of the bar action. It's not pretty.