Bar? None! Neighbors upset about Grand Street speakeasy

Bar? None! Neighbors upset about Grand Street speakeasy
Photo by Tom Callan

A pair of Manhattan bar owners want to transform a tranquil Williamsburg block into a cool dating destination — but its neighbors are organizing to keep them out.

Sibling bar owners Jason and Scott Schneider, who own Elsa, a speakeasy-style bar in Alphabet City, want to open a similar joint in an empty Grand Street storefront nestled below several stately four-story brick buildings off Keap Street.

“We were drawn to the charming quietness of the block,” said Elsa’s Jason Schneider. “It’s a beautiful tree-lined block, and the space is the kind of place you would take a date to.”

But homeowners such as Candy Harder is worried that the bar will attract noisy revelers to her quiet street at all hours of the night.

“It’s not about the bar,” said Harder. “I think the bar would be fine. It’s about the people getting to the bar, leaving the bar, and standing outside the bar that would be disruptive. Once you bring people to this area, you don’t know who’s on your street and there could be more crime.”

This week, Harder presented a petition opposing the bar to Community Board 1 with nearly two dozen signatures from nearby residents, prompting the board’s public safety committee to table its vote on a liquor license for the bar, tentatively called City of Daughters.

“We believe that consensus can be reached after people who opposed the application talk to the new applicant,” said CB1 Public Safety Committee Chairman Mieszko Kalita. “Both of them expressed hope that they can reach an agreement and allow the business to operate.”

But board member Wilfredo Florentino, who grew up on nearby Keap Street, says the block is “quiet” and “very desolate” and is leaning against support.

“A number of families have moved into that block and it’s not necessarily the most ideal place to anchor a new bar,” said Florentino.

Schneider hopes to win over the neighbors by expanding the menu, closing the backyard and possibly limiting his hours.

At Grand Street, he envisions an upscale “speakeasy-style” bar with 66 seats that will serve cocktails and cheese plates and not twentysomethings “drinking as much as they can.”

“Other bars were looking at the space,” said Schneider. “If it’s not us, it could be someone louder. [Residents] will have to decide what kind of bar they want in that space, whether it’s groups of 23- or 24-year-olds throwing up all over the place or a quieter crowd.”