Bar backlash! Williamsburg tavern owners form trade group to fight CB1

Bar backlash! Williamsburg tavern owners form trade group to fight CB1
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Talk about a bar fight.

Williamsburg’s tavern and restaurant owners are in open rebellion against a new booze-license policy approved earlier this month by the local community board that will make it more difficult to open a bar with an outdoor space.

The new Community Board 1 rules require license-seeking bars with a rooftop or backyard space to have “seated food service” from a full menu — an onerous new hurdle that bar owners say hinders their efforts to quench the public thirst.

“This policy will have consequences on the greatest economic engine in the neighborhood, and on subsidiary businesses that depend on restaurant traffic,” said Teddy’s Bar and Grill owner Felice Kirby, who is organizing her fellow tavern owners into the Brooklyn Allied Bars and Restaurants.

Community Board 1 Public Safety Chairman Mieszko Kalita said the board changed its liquor policy to prevent people from making too much noise in bar back yards, which he called “the number one problem we have in the community.”

“We’re trying to prevent a group of people sitting and standing in a backyard, having drinks, and listening to loud music,” he said.

The policy arose after CB 1 Chairman Chris Olechowski proposed a full moratorium on new liquor licenses in Williamsburg and Greenpoint in April, citing a 50-percent increase in new applications this year as the reason behind his anti-booze crusade.

That full ban was tabled in favor of the new rules, which also cover existing bars that want to expand. In such instances, the board has promised to examine the application on a case-by-case basis — and that has some owners nervous.

Soft Spot owner Matt Webber wants to double the size of his Bedford Avenue watering hole, which currently serves only bar snacks, without abiding by the new rules because he can’t afford to add a kitchen. Besides, he said, he already quells noise by closing his backyard at 10 pm.

And he believes the new policy overwhelmingly favors wealthy restaurateurs who can afford to open in Williamsburg — creating more backyard noise anyway.

“The stipulations don’t want bars where the primary sale is liquor, but the reality is liquor sells everything,” said Webber. “Only restaurateurs with giant funding will be able to do full table service and survive.”

In the end, the new policy may not completely deter noisy drunks anyway, thanks to a a loophole that may allow a backyard bar to operate without a full kitchen as long as food is prepared on site and served to patrons outdoors.

And the policy does not mention any restrictions on bars with mobile food trucks in rear yards, including Trophy Bar and Union Pool, which have racked up noise complaints in the past.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.