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Booze at Smorgasburg? Not yet, says W’burg civic group • Brooklyn Paper

Booze at Smorgasburg? Not yet, says W’burg civic group

Neill and Renae Holland, the husband-and-wife team behind Bon Chovie, the breakout star of Smorgasburg, can be found at the food market selling their deep-fried fresh anchovies with a rock and roll edge.
Photo by Tom Callan

The Williamsburg food festival Smorgasburg wants to add alcohol to the menu — but neighborhood leaders put that plan on ice.

Community Board 1’s public safety committee denied a request by Brooklyn Flea co-founder Eric Demby to get a seasonal liquor license so he can serve locally brewed beer, wine and liquor at his popular outdoor market on N. Sixth Street — even though Demby insisted his event would be quiet and family-friendly.

“We have a lot of families who come to our businesses so this won’t be a rowdy scene,” said Demby. “This is really about showcasing local producers.”

But the board — which has previously tried to heighten outdoor drinking regulations — voted 3–2 against the Smorgasburg plan, worrying that neighbors living along Kent Avenue — who are already outraged about intoxicated post-concert crowds — won’t welcome more potentially intoxicated visitors.

“Saturday is a family day for many residents who live [near the East River] and they take that time to play games and relax,” said CB1 public safety committee member Rob Solano. “Anytime you add alcohol to that environment, it changes the dynamic of the venue.”

Smorgasburg’s application will go before the full board, where it would likely be approved so long as Demby brings a petition with scores of signatures from residents in favor of the food-and-alcohol plan and letters of support from public officials, a CB1 source said.

The food-only offshoot of the Brooklyn Flea opened last May in a lot adjacent to the East River and immediately attracted thousands of hungry denizens who feasted on spinach pupusas, tacos, lobster rolls, roasted garlic toast, corn flake cookies, and vegan ice cream.

This year, Demby hopes to add small batches of beer, wine and gin to the mix by opening a 10-foot bar in the center of the property, cordoned off from the food in a 30-foot by 50-foot pen in time for the market’s April 7 opening.

Bartenders would serve eight to 10-ounce cups of beer from Brooklyn Brewery, Kelso, and Six Point, as well as wine from Brooklyn Winery, and gin cocktails from Kings County Distillery, Breuckelen Distilling, and the New York Distilling Company — whose distiller can’t wait to introduce his gin to Smorgasburg’s thirsty masses.

“There’s no better place to have a gin and tonic than on the Brooklyn waterfront at the Brooklyn Flea,” said New York Distilling Company’s Tom Potter.

Harry Rosenblum, co-founder of the cooking school and store, Brooklyn Kitchen said bringing Brooklyn-centric beer and spirits to Smorgasburg is a no-brainer, considering the food festival’s objective.

“The goal of Smorgasburg is to support people making things and they should be able to highlight locally made beverages, bitters, and cocktails, in the same way they highlight other locally made food products,” said Rosenblum.

A much smaller winter version of the Smorgasburg has already shacked up inside the nearby Brooklyn Brewery on Sundays, where beer is readily available.

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