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April 9, 2011 / Brooklyn news / Williamsburg / Brooklyn Is Angry

Community Board 1 ponders the unthinkable — a Williamsburg without new bars

And last year, members of the public rallied against Custom Wine Bar, which ended up getting its liquor license.
The Brooklyn Paper

Last call, Williamsburg!

Some community leaders in the booze-soaked partyland want a moratorium on all new liquor licenses — curtailing the flow of new bars and restaurants into a seriously liquored-up neighborhood.

Community Board 1 Chairman Chris Olechowski proposed the ban on all future eating and drinking establishments this week, complaining of the “over proliferation” of raunchy sex, public urination, illicit drug use, and loud music.

“The accumulating burden on our community has caused great concern,” Olechowski wrote in a memo to board members on Thursday after his executive committee approved the ban unanimously. Olechowsky blamed the “negative cumulative effects” on “indifferent business owners” and “unruly patrons.”

Olechoswki’s proposal is certainly not new — Community Board 2 briefly shot down a bunch of liquor license requests in 2009 until Borough President Markowitz intervened to keep neighborhood taps running — and complaints about bars are as common in Williamsburg as, well, bars.

Community board staffers say that they have received a rising number of complaints from residents about excessive noise and late-night revelry from many new bars.

And some residents have mounted aggressive campaigns to prevent the board from handing out liquor licenses like candy — a campaign that even ensnared a quiet wine bar on the corner of Metropolitan and Driggs Avenues and a bar in the middle of a residential stretch of Grand Street.

Still, Olechowski’s call for a mini-Prohibition has created a rift between drinkers and teetotlers.

“Wow, that’s so crazy! It’s Draconian,” said board member Ryan Kuonen. “I don’t like things that are so black and white.”

The board’s public safety committee chairman, Mieszko Kalita, compared a moratorium to “playing God” with the lives of entrepreneurs who want to open a restaurant.

“It will play huge role in price of real estate,” said Kalita. “Whoever has a bar and is selling an existing license could become a millionaire overnight. We really have to think it over.”

But board member Will Florentino understands his neighbor’s frustrations with new drinking establishments.

“We do suffer an undue burden, and that does hamper the quality of life in the district,” said Florentino.

And his colleague Tom Burrows believes the city should be stepping up enforcement on bars that violate their liquor license terms or are the site of other illegal activities.

“We don’t want to stop it all, but get it under control somehow,” said Burrows. “People have a right to do what they have a right to do, but there are also rules.”

Board members in favor of the moratorium may think that their neighborhood is the booziest in New York, but it’s not even in the top 10.

A New York Post analysis of liquor licenses found that the East Village, followed by several other Manhattan neighborhoods, had the most concentrated number of bars in the city.

But Greenpoint had among the largest number of alcoholic anonymous groups — an indication the neighborhood’s residents are indeed suffering from the tidal wave of alcohol.

Community Board 1 will debate the proposal at its next meeting at the Swinging Sixties Senior Center [211 Ainslie St. at Manhattan Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 389-0009], April 12, 6:30 pm.

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Reader Feedback

G from Greenpoint says:
The moratorium should have been put in place a few years ago. There are literally hundreds of bars crammed into this area. I work at night and often come back after 3am - I always catch drunks uriniating in the streets. I'm talking about quiet blocks away from the bars like North 5th and Roebling, etc...and forget about the stretch of North 7th between Bedford all the way to Wythe. In every corner, behind every construction angle, there are young people pissing all night long.

If you live here, you know it's really gotten out of hand.
April 10, 2011, 1:22 pm
Griff says:
This needs to happen.
The one they are talking about in the middle of residential Grand street is a roof beer garden, stretching over 3 roofs. It's going to be complete chaos.
April 11, 2011, 10:43 am
Sal from South Side says:
they should open a Bar in the Bedford L train station.
April 11, 2011, 10:47 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
The only people who should be in support of this are holders of existing liquor licenses. As Mieszko Kalita notes, that's going to turn a lot of people into millionaires a lot quicker than selling $5 picklebacks will.
April 11, 2011, 12:06 pm
Jenny from Williamsburg says:
I agree. Should have been done a long time ago.
Who cares if it makes someone with a license rich? What do you care?
April 12, 2011, 12:35 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I care about people having the ability to open a bar or restaurant in empty storefronts. I care about better bars and restaurants being free to compete with the existing ones. And I care because if liquor licenses become exorbitantly expensive, prices for drinks will reflect that.
April 13, 2011, 10:48 am
rich from williamsburg says:
the problems they complain about
the noise, public urination, vomiting etc...
will not go away by imposing a moratorium
so this proposal will not solve that problem

people will still continue to do these things
from the establishments already causing these problems

it would make more sense
to find a way of penalizing the businesses
that allow these activities to happen

this would hurt the chances for those who just want to open a good responsible business
which would be a loss to the community going forward
and to the building owners who rely on those tenants to support their buildings
April 13, 2011, 1:58 pm

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