Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A gastropub and sports bar coming to Pacific & Flatbush: another incursion on residents or the best alternative near the arena? CB calls for caution

Residents of northwest Park Slope, already wary of seemingly under-the-radar efforts to install new arena-related bars near the under-construction Barclays Center, had some harsh words last night for entrepreneurs aiming to put Players Gastro Pub and Sportsbar, plus a pizza/falafel quick serve combo, in a building on Pacific Street at Flatbush Avenue now home to a furniture store.

(Above left, photo from Google Maps; note that the building at left has been demolished and is the site of arena construction. The view is looking south along Flatbush.)

“We do not need a bar on Pacific Street,” commented resident Syble Henderson, who helped found the Brooklyn Bear’s community garden at the northwest corner of Pacific and Flatbush, speaking at at a Community Board 6 subcommittee meeting concerning permits and licenses.

“Historically that block has been impacted with all kinds of anti-social activities,” Henderson said at the meeting held at the 78th Precinct at Bergen Street and Sixth Avenue, referring to drugs and prostitution residents fought 30 years ago. “We have fought long and hard to bring stability to that block... This is an attraction for all kinds of misuse.”

About 15 other residents nearby joined Henderson in her sentiments, while no resident spoke in favor of the plans, and the committee agreed to postpone any recommendation to the State Liquor Authority until its meeting next month and further discussion about the new facilities’ operating plans and procedures. (The Community Board’s vote is advisory, but can push parties to negotiate.)

One issue, reminiscent of the recent tensions over the Prime 6 bar/restaurant planned at Flatbush and Sixth Avenue, was how much notice residents got. Signs were posted on Thursday in the 500-foot radius of the planned new facilities, but several residents said they never saw them.

(Above right, looking west along Pacific Street, where the commercial building borders residences, and is across the street from the Brooklyn Bear's garden.)

NIMBY, inevitable, or best alternative?

While the sentiments might be portrayed as NIMBY, it might be more accurate to call them the tensions arising from putting an arena so close to a residential neighborhood. 
(The state is overriding city zoning that requires a 200-foot barrier between sports facilities and residents.)

For their part, the entrepreneurs insisted that their plan was the best alternative for a newly-coveted spot and that their landlord, Henry Weinstein--a mainstay of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District (BID) and, while an owner of land in the Atlantic Yards footprint, a prominent opponent of the arena plan--recognized that.

Players would operate 11 am to 4 am daily, occupying 3500 square feet, with seating for 150 and two bars, one with 15 seats, the other with six seats.

Weinstein, according to Michael Pappalardo, one of the partners in the new venture, said he was getting regular calls from nightclub operators who wanted to rent the space. (Here's the ad, mentioning the building is across the street from the arena site.) “It was [partner] Scott [Alling] who educated him.”

“Nightclubs have a lifespan and they typically go through cycles,” Alling told the audience. “We thought that would just deteriorate it.” Given the large space available, the partners would only take the front, and aim to mostly food and beverage, operating as a gastropub. “Of course, in that that five to seven [pm] span” before the arena’s open, “we want to do a lot of business.”

“We want to run this as a sports bar when the stadium is having a sporting event,” he said at another point. “When it's having a rock’n’roll night, we plan on running it as an indie rock venue, live music before, and after.”

Regina Cahill of the North Flatbush BID said that Weinstein wanted to follow the policies and guidelines of the BID and the Community Board. She recommended that some stipulations about the business operations be reached after meetings with the community.

The “u-rena” and its impacts

Jon Crow, another mainstay of the garden and an Atlantic Yards opponent, pointed to the likelihood of disorderly arena attendees “urinating on our neighborhood. That's why this is shocking and frightening--you realize the neighborhood doesn't want the u-rena.”

“I understand you don't want it,” responded Terry Flynn, Jr., the partners’ lawyer. “The reality of situation, people are going to open businesses, because of the opportunity to make money, and also can serve your community. What we intend on doing is both.”

“This is no different from Madison Square Garden, and people coming out of Madison Square Garden going to dinner before or after the arena,” he said. “Your concerns--we intend on making sure it's operating properly.”

The difference, unmentioned, is that MSG does not encroach on a residential neighborhood.

Applicants’ background

The applicants, Flynn said, have experience in food service, including Social Eatz in Midtown.

Does the latter have a liquor license, asked Pacific Street resident Jim Vogel.

It has just been received, Alling said.

Pappalardo said the partners have an event space in the Jane Hotel, called Salon, with liquor.
The license application questionnaire regarding other businesses operated by any of the partners mentioned a third establishment, Arena, at 135 West 41st Street in Manhattan, a multi-level event space.

One resident read a list of headlines, gathered from a Google search, recounting violent incidents at sports bars around the country.

“Look, I don't think because there's a sports bar there's going to be violence,” Flynn said. The space would be oriented to families, whether from the community or going to an event or game.

What are your ties to the Brooklyn community, asked another resident.

It’s their first business in Brooklyn, but Alling said he lives in Bushwick and helped build a coffee shop there.

More details

The gastropub/sports bar, according to Alling, will have “a pretty substantial safe area in the front, eight feet deep, double doored.”

The pizzeria, called B.A. Pizza, and the falafel joint, Mamoun’s (presumably licensed from the establishment in Manhattan), will be limited to 24 seats, with a beer and wine license.

Flynn called it “quick in, quick out,” not a restaurant where people would linger.

Pending legislation

Paul Nelson, Assemblywoman Joan Millman’s chief of staff, also discussed a proposed bill that would require a permit to serve alcohol in a rear yard or rooftop, and would require those spaces to be vacated by 11 pm on Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday, unless the Community Board approved an extended closing time.

The bill has been endorsed by civic groups including the Park Slope Civic Council and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. The Community Board committee was enthusiastic.

Democrat Millman is still waiting for a cosponsor in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. Nelson said he didn’t think it would pass this year, “but I'm pleased it has already been used as a model in one case,” that of Prime 6.

Cahill commented that police officials have expressed support, since it gives clear guidelines regarding noise.

Reflections on Prime 6 and race

Criticism of Prime 6 has been portrayed as not only NIMBY but also racist, because of a pseudonymous, quite possibly fake, petition calling for indie rock rather than hip-hop.

Last night, the critics of the new bar were a rainbow coalition.

2 comments:

  1. Great report -- and there is some interest now in establishing a moratorium on liquor license applications within a quarter mile of the arena until we can all look at this with a regional perspective.

    Also, your comment about a Prime 6 petition at the end of your article isn't really warranted -- it was definitely a fake, and I'm the one who realized that first, when talking to the Wall Street Journal. Not only did the purported author of the prank say she was at the meeting where the Prime 6 owner spoke, there is no doubt whatsoever that neither he NOR ANYONE ELSE ever claimed it was to be a music venue. No such license was applied for and no room is being made for music performance or dancing. It was absolutely never a question.

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  2. spellcheck... Urina!!!!

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