New Seminar for Backyard Bar Owners

New Seminar for Backyard Bar Owners

For restaurant owners with big backyards, class is in session.

In response to a bevy of complaints from Williamsburg residents over the past year, Community Board 1’s Public Safety Committee, the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) will be setting up a seminar to educate backyard garden owners about rules and regulations they should obey so they will be better neighbors to residents living above them.

“Education works better than penalizing people, running around issuing summonses,” said CB1 Public Safety Chair Mieszko Kalita. “They are proposing to run a seminar, two or three meetings, where they will tell people who use backyard garden what rules they should obey and how many penalties they would be facing if they are not.”

After the Public Safety Committee approved the seminar in a 5-0 vote, DOB and SBA officials will design the class primarily for restaurant and bar owners with a certificate of occupancy for a backyard garden. If the total capacity of a restaurant or bar is over 75 people, businesses need a public assembly permit to use backyard garden and two means of egress. All new businesses looking for a liquor license with a Certificate of Occupancy for the backyard will also be required to attend at one of these meetings.

“We had so many complaints about the backyard use that we asked different agencies to apply their input,” said Kalita. “The State Liquor Authority told us that backyard gardens will be included in the liquor license and businesses must show to SLA where liquor will be served.”

The program will be modeled after a successful seminar held at Community Board 6, which instituted its own program for local bars and restaurants. According to Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman, turnout rates among business owners and city agencies has been “really good” and that compliance rates with rules and regulations remains high.

“It’s been a tremendous educational tool for the agencies who always take away information about what other agencies due and for our residents and business owners. The idea is if everyone understood what the rules are, it would encourage good practices all around,” said Hammerman. “People may not be aware of the rules, and when they discover what the rules are, find out that businesses are playing by the rules, they tend to respect them more.”

That’s what Kalita and other CB1 members hope will happen in Williamsburg. This month, DOB and SBA officials will begin canvassing local businesses with invitations to attend the seminar, to be held later this spring in advance of the summer barbecuing season, when backyards are used most heavily.

The top complaints from residents regarding businesses with backyards according to Kalita, is excessive noise, followed by overcrowding, smoke and litter. Kalita said that the committee was in favor of education as opposed to summonses to show restaurant and bar owners the right way to operate their businesses. With their seminar, Community Board 6 reduced the number of complaints backyards and noise down by 95 percent, which Kalita said “would be a dream for us.”

“What we want is a quiet and lovable neighborhood, not people screaming and hating each other,” said Kalita.