Volume 21, Number 10 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | July 18 - 24, 2008
Neighbors: Liquor license vote wasn’t ‘N Sync with Tribeca
By Julie Shapiro
Murray St. residents don’t care how famous the clientele of the new bar at 6 Murray St. will be — even if Cameron Diaz shows up, as the bar owner promised, the residents do not want a new sports bar on their block.
“Cameron Diaz — who cares?” said Suellen Epstein, who lives across from the bar at 9 Murray St. “That does not help the quality of my life.”
Epstein and her neighbors fear that the bar — owned by Eytan Sugarman, who jointly owns several bars with Diaz’s ex, pop star Justin Timberlake — will turn their quiet block into a rowdy, late-night scene, with limos, celebrities and crowds.
For a taste of what could happen to Murray St., Epstein ventured Uptown to Southern Hospitality, a restaurant and bar Timberlake owns with Sugarman. As she walked up Second Ave. near 76th St., Epstein said she heard the pulsing music from across the street. Inside, the patrons had to scream at each other to be heard. Traffic snarled in front of the bar, as people poured in, she added.
“I’ll be damned if I’m going to let that happen to my neighborhood,” Epstein said.
Bruno Gioffre, Jr., the lawyer representing the bar, did not return calls for comment.
Epstein and several other residents have collected nearly 150 signatures on a petition opposing the as-yet-unnamed bar. But they didn’t find out about the bar in time to attend Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee meeting earlier this month, where the bar appeared on the agenda at the last minute and was not listed online. Seeing no community opposition, the Financial District Committee overwhelmingly recommended the State Liquor Authority approve a liquor license for the bar, including its closing time of 4 a.m.
The bar raised a red flag for Jeff Ehrlich, a public member of the board who has spent years living above bars on Chambers St. At the Financial District meeting, Sugarman, the owner, would not agree to soundproofing and did not promise to work with his neighbors, Ehrlich said. After the meeting, Ehrlich told several buildings on Murray St. about the bar, and then the residents started mobilizing.
“We have to go grassroots, because nobody’s looking out for us,” Epstein said. She is angry that the committee voted on the license without notifying the community.
Noah Pfefferblit, C.B. 1’s district manager, said the board office only received the application several days before the meeting.
Further complicating the matter is the fact that the bar sits right on the border between the Financial District and Tribeca committees. Epstein and her neighbors on the north side of the street fall under Tribeca, while the new bar falls under the Financial District. But the noise, residents say, will cross the invisible dividing line, meaning they deserve a chance to weigh in on the application.
Julie Menin, chairperson of the board, said she is open to creating more subject-matter committees, such as one for liquor license, but the board as a whole seems happy with the current structure. No matter how the board hears liquor license applications, the board always wants to hear from the community, she said.
Jean Grillo, a public member of C.B. 1, wants the board to post flyers about upcoming liquor license applications on the blocks that will be affected. C.B. 1 has done that in the past, she said, and Community Board 2 also posts flyers.
Julie Menin, chairperson of the board, said the board staff had more time to distribute flyers when they had an extra staff member, funded by the Friends of Community Board 1, a nonprofit set up by Madelyn Wils, former board chairperson. Now, though, the board staff has too much on their plate, Menin said. She encouraged residents to volunteer to post notices for controversial licenses.
Some Murray St. residents want to limit the bar to a 1 a.m. closing, but Robert Krauss, who also lives on Murray St., does not want the bar to open at all. He is gathering petition signatures because he is worried the bar’s patrons will make noise and cause damage late at night.
“We already have quite a few bars on our street,” Krauss said. “Given the large number of families in the neighborhood, we’re carrying more than our fair share of that type of weight.”
The new bar will likely fall under the 500-foot rule, which requires the owner to show that the bar would be in the public interest if three or more bars are already operating within 500 feet. The 6 Murray St. location most recently housed the A & M Roadhouse, owned by Arthur Gregory, a former C.B. 1 member.
The Financial District Committee will meet this Tuesday, before the monthly full board meeting to listen to the community’s concerns about the bar and possibly revise their resolution. The Financial District meeting earlier in the month did not have a quorum, so the previous vote was only provisional. The new meeting will be held July 29 at 5:30 p.m. in Studio C at the 3-Legged Dog Art and Technology Center at 80 Greenwich St.