Flatlands locals bash plan to reinvent restaurant, citing fears of violence

New owners of 1819 Utica Ave. plan to open a restaurant and serve liquor at the controversial establishment.

Local civic gurus are pushing to deny a restauranteur’s liquor license application at a Flatlands establishment, saying the storefront has been marred by a history of raucousness and violence.

At a virtual meeting on Feb. 17, members of Community Board 18 unanimously voted to recommend disapproving the liquor license application for the watering hole at 1819 Utica Ave. — a bar still operating under the name Brooklyn Estates, but under new ownership, which requires a new liquor license. 

Brooklyn Estate Center Industries Inc. recently purchased the eatery, and are looking to expand their menu, while limiting their operating hours to close at 1 am on weekends — an hour earlier than the applicants originally requested.

Locals, however, raised numerous complaints about noise and rowdiness from the establishment — saying the establishment shouldn’t be granted a renewed license, even with new owners. 

“It seems to get into a nightclub type of operation, and when this happens, then comes all kind of problems,” said Joan Gilbert, a member of the Flatlands Civic Club. “The 63rd Precinct has reported gun violence and this does not serve the residents of this community.”

The applicants — who are not related to the establishment’s most recent owners — were surprised by the board’s ruling, and claimed they’ve reinvented the establishment to meet the community board’s previous concerns and transition away from operating solely as a bar.

“That was the original decision, and that was the full point of meeting the applicant, having that dialogue, addressing the board’s concerns,” said Gen Harris, the applicant’s representative. “They completely changed their menu, they went for a full-service restaurant.” 

This was the applicants’ third time going before the board seeking their approval, and the third time the board recommended that state liquor honchos deny the establishment a liquor license — having voted against it in both 2018 and 2019, said the board’s Planning and Zoning Committee Chair Sal Calise at a December meeting. Calise further noted the current applicants — Richard Lutchman and Jeffrey Theodat — also owned the establishment when it operated under the names Venus in 2013, and Podium in 2015.

Applicants claim there were no issues of violence during their previous stint operating the bar, and that under their leadership, neighbors shouldn’t expect to see the same problems as before.

But NYPD’s public information office told Brooklyn Paper they recorded a complaint of gunshots at the location on Nov. 25 of last year. 

Since the previous denials at the last two board meetings, Harris added, the new owners invited the local precinct to come in for a walk-through after which, she claims, they’d received the officers’ blessing. 

“The applicants met with the precinct and they received the support of the precinct based on their conversations,” Harris said. “They did a walk-through, we invited members… we have really done everything to address the board’s concerns.” 

But the police chief, who also attended the meeting, told the board that was not the case.

“Before you say anything else … I did the walk-through with your clients,” said Captain Genevieve Isom of the 63rd Precinct. “I told them it was not a deciding factor, I don’t support or not support… I told them straight up that I had concerns.” 

Community board members cited past gun violence at the location, and one member raised suspicion over a lack of windows at the eatery.

“They are saying they want to make this a restaurant, a wonderful restaurant in the neighborhood,” said Gerard Brewster. “I have never been to a restaurant without a window and why would I want to hang out in a restaurant without a window at 1 am on Utica Avenue?” 

The applicant’s representative maintained her clients’ non-relation to owners of the bar’s most recent iteration.

“They are really looking to bring something new and different to the area,” Harris said. “We understand the problems that were there before, we never denied that there were issues there before but that was under different applicants.”

The board’s vote is advisory only but will be considered when the State Liquor Authority makes their decision on the application.

Update (11:30 am): This story has been updated to include additional information from the NYPD.