Volume 21, Number 10 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | July 18 - 24, 2008
Whatever Lola wants, Lola finally gets: Live music
By Barrett Zinn Gross and Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke
A song was in the air on Watts St. as the music finally played at Lola this Monday. Vocalist Alisa Ohri sang jazz standards, backed by drummer Steven Weinless’s trio as Lola began its nightly program of live music in the wake of a favorable decision by the State Liquor Authority on July 17.
Diners from the neighborhood and local hotels enjoyed their meals and drinks as they were serenaded by the sounds of smooth jazz. On the street, the noise of Holland Tunnel-bound automobiles overwhelmed the gentle sounds that escaped the club.
The reappearance of live music at Lola was the result of the efforts of Lola’s attorney, Terry Flynn, who resubmitted his request to the S.L.A. board last month after it was rejected in March. On Thursday, Flynn spoke to the S.L.A.’s commissioners by videoconference from the authority’s Harlem office while the commissioners sat in Albany.
Soho Alliance Attorney Barry Mallin and 362 West Broadway residents John Evans and Carl Ermine also appeared at the S.L.A.’s Harlem office last Thursday to ask the authority to continue the live music ban.
S.L.A. Chairperson Daniel Boyle spoke first for the S.L.A. In his remarks he all but apologized for ruling against Lola in March. The decision, he said, was made “without all the circumstances and facts. In all fairness…there is no question the previous [S.L.A.] board knew there would be live music” when it granted Lola’s original liquor license in 2004.
“She’s entitled to the music now,” added Commissioner Noreen Healey, referring to Gayle Patrick-Odeen, who co-owns Lola along with her husband, Tom Patrick-Odeen.
Healey went on to praise the Patrick-Odeens for accepting restrictions that will reduce the impact of noise and late-night crowds on the neighborhood. The stipulations made by Flynn and agreed to by the Patrick-Odeens include ending live music by midnight, keeping the place’s French doors on Watts St. closed during musical performances and not using the outdoor courtyard between the restaurant and 362 West Broadway.
Mallin called the result “a positive outcome and a victory for the community. Lola has to keep their doors closed,” he said. “If the noise is kept inside, there is no problem with the community.”
Soho Alliance Director Sean Sweeney grudgingly agreed.
“I go to bed at midnight,” he said. “If Lola had started with this, they could have saved themselves four years and a million dollars.”
However, the Patrick-Odeens’ long legal battle may not be over yet. The restaurant’s liquor license was annulled in State Supreme Court by an Article 78 ruling in May. The ruling is stayed pending appeal, but Mallin would not comment on how the Soho Alliance would respond to the appeal. Although the S.L.A. gave emphatic support to Lola on Thursday, negotiations between the Soho Alliance and Lola to settle the ongoing litigation have so far been unsuccessful.
“The issue of the [liquor] license itself still has to go back for a de novo review by the S.L.A. pursuant to the order of the court,” said Mallin. “At the moment, the court annulled the license and Lola is operating under a stay from the court.”
In the wake of the S.L.A.’s ruling to clarify the music issue, Ms. Patrick-Odeen said, “It is a small group of people who are fighting our business; it is really as few as five people. If the business had failed, everyone would say, ‘Gee, what a shame.’ After four years, we have everything we should have had in the first place. But I wonder how many people are disenfranchised in this manner.”
In a related event, Lola went before Community Board 2’s Business Committee on July 8 to present altered plans for their space.
“Two years ago, we switched architects. Among other aesthetic changes, the live music was moved to a sunken area enclosed by triple-pane glass,” said Ms. Patrick-Odeen, speaking at the C.B. 2 meeting.
The changes, although minor, benefit both the community and her customers, she said.
“Diners who are here primarily to enjoy dinner with family and friends can hear the music but not be overwhelmed by it,” she said. “Additionally, the glass enclosure helps contain the sound from the street and protects the community from the music.”
The proposal was unanimously recommended for approval by the Business Committee, and the full board will decide on it at its July 24 meeting.
“I can’t see any reason that it won’t pass,” said Richard Stewart, Business Committee vice chairperson. The proposal was nearly last on the agenda and not heard until 11:30 p.m. Besides the attorney and C.B. 2 members, there was very little community presence for Lola at the meeting.
“Usually, Lola draws a huge crowd,” noted Stewart.
Even though the aforementioned triple-paned glass windows were wide open on Monday, in the side courtyard bordering 362 West Broadway the rumble of air-conditioning compressors was all that could be heard in the oppressive summer heat.
The Patrick-Odeens have wasted no time booking performers, and Lola will present three sets of live music seven nights a week, as well as their signature gospel-performance brunch on Sunday. Performance hours will be 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 9 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday, with a $15 table minimum per set. There are two seatings for the Sunday gospel brunch with a $42 prix-fixe menu.