Bay Ridge has gone from “Saturday Night Fever” to “Footloose.”
The neighborhood’s community board claimed a victory last month when the nightclub Ibiza withdrew its request for a liquor license for a recently renovated spot on Third Avenue between 82nd and 83rd streets after community members learned that owners were actually planning a nightclub instead of a restaurant.
“We encourage responsible business owners to be forthright and abide by the restrictions we impose to protect the community,” said CB10 Chairwoman Joanne Seminara after Ibiza withdrew its request. “The Ibiza owners grossly misrepresented their plans to the board.”
The Ibiza incident is the latest evidence that the dance-feverish nightlife culture that once defined the neighborhood is under new scrutiny by a community board increasingly prone to slap down potentially troublesome nightspots before they get a chance to hang their disco balls.
Longtime Bay Ridge nightclubbers say the vibe has changed in the neighborhood since Travolta-esque dance moves incited disco fever along Third and Fifth avenues — and the nabe once known for its discos is going the way of the tiny town in “Footloose,” where dancing and rock music were banned.
“They don’t want to deal with all that, with kids running around at 4 am drunk out of their minds,” said legendary Bay Ridge DJ and CBS FM radio personality Joe Causi, referring to the community’s response to clubs over the years. “They’d rather have it clean, quiet and comfortable.”
But restaurant and club owners are groaning under the yoke of rules over how they can and can’t run their clubs.
“It was like I was being hung on the cross,” Rapheal Abrahante said of the community’s grilling of his plans to open a Latin restaurant on 71st Street near Third Avenue. Abrahante agreed to a series of stipulations — including changing the restaurant’s name to omit the word “lounge” — before board members would greenlight his liquor license proposal, but he said it was ridiculous that he be punished because of the actions of the previous owners.
“It’s unfair,” he said. “I expected to be welcomed with open arms and given the chance since I’m creating jobs.”
The use of stipulations has become a common tool to curb potential troublemakers.
“Community boards are now being more active and vocal,” said Michael Jones of the State Liquor Authority, the agency that regulates nightclubs and other spots that serve booze, and receives recommendations from the local panels whenever a club or bar seeks to obtain or renew a liquor license.
“It seems like community boards these days are using more stipulations to prevent the problems that the clubs are known for,” added Jones.
The community board put up restrictions before it approved the Crown KTV karaoke club, a notorious 62nd Street club that has been the scene of stabbings, and the subject of dozens of noise complaints and reports of drug use and underage drinking.
The only problem is that the club ignored the stipulations, foes say.
The board’s district manager Josephine Beckmann said the rise of other neighborhoods — like Williamsburg, Carroll Gardens and other booming belts in the borough — is responsible for the decline in clubs in Bay Ridge, and denied the board has become more antagonistic to bars and clubs.
But longtime Bay Ridge partiers — Beckmann among them! — say things just aren’t the same as they were back in the day.
“When I was growing up in Carroll Gardens, when we went out to restaurants and clubs, we went down to Bay Ridge,” admitted Beckmann.
The scene was spurred by “Saturday Night Fever,” said Causi.
“There was one on every block on every corner, starting form 100th Street by the Verrazano Bridge all the way up to the lower 70s,” he said.