Volume 21, Number 12 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | August 1 - 7, 2008

With little C.B. 1 opposition, ‘beca gets its wine license

By Julie Shapiro

The Duane St. Hotel can finally serve beer and wine to its guests.

Despite widespread opposition from neighbors, but because of paltry support at the community board, the State Liquor Authority quietly granted a license to the boutique hotel earlier this month, surprising State Sen. Martin Connor and others who were expecting advance notice.

The S.L.A. previously rejected the hotel’s application for a full liquor license, but a beer and wine license is easier to get. Community Board 1 was split over the beer license when they voted on it in May, and they never passed a resolution opposing it. The board appears to have further confused the S.L.A. by sending a resolution saying it would not oppose approval, even though the resolution did not officially pass.

Michael Levine, director of land use and planning for C.B. 1, said he verbally told an S.L.A. official that there was some opposition, and he offered to send a companion letter. Levine said the S.L.A. told him to hold off and that he would be contacted after the application was submitted. Levine said the S.L.A. never contacted him.

The community board’s vote is advisory, with the S.L.A. making the final decision.

The license is for ‘beca, a Mediterranean restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel at 130 Duane St. The S.L.A. approved the one-year beer and wine license with the conditions that the restaurant closes at midnight and is not noisy, said Bill Crowley, a Liquor Authority spokesperson. Those conditions came from the community board.

Sen. Connor was hoping to weigh in against the beer and wine license, but he didn’t get the chance. The application for the hotel’s license never appeared on the S.L.A.’s online agenda, Connor said.

“I don’t know how they just approved it without putting it on the calendar,” Connor said. “How come nobody got a chance to be heard on this?”

Crowley replied that the only beer and wine licenses that the S.L.A. board handles are controversial ones, while the rest get approved at the staff level and are not posted online. Since the S.L.A. did not get official word against the license from the community board, the staff approved the license

Jean Grillo, head of the Duane St. Block Association, said Connor and the community board should be clearer on the S.L.A.’s policies so they can help the community fight problem licenses. She is working with City Councilmember Alan Gerson’s office to set up a meeting with Hersha Hospitality Trust, the hotel’s owner. Matt Viggiano, from Gerson’s office, has been trying to set up the meeting since June, but he said scheduling conflicts have gotten in the way.

Connor decided to oppose the license after talking to Duane St. residents.

“It’s an inappropriate location,” Connor said. “I’ve always taken the attitude that residents have to come first in these things.”

One Duane St. resident wanted Hersha to agree not to ever try to bump their beer and wine license up to a full liquor license, but she said the beer and wine license may work out for the best. The resident, who did not want to give her name because of pending negotiations with Hersha, said she wanted the restaurant to be a quiet wine bar for the hotel’s guests, not a velvet-rope night spot for tourists from New Jersey.

Despite her concerns about the noise and rowdiness the beer and wine license could generate, the resident said she was hoping it would bring more patrons to the hotel, which she said often looks dark and empty.

Neil Shah, president of Hersha, did not comment.

“It is now up to Hersha to show just what kind of neighbor they will be,” Grillo said. “We remain willing to work with them, as we always have, but it remains to be seen if they are willing to work with us.”






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