River Cafe looks for cabaret license

As this paper went to press, several local residents were expected to attend a Community Board 2 committee meeting to lobby for the River Cafe to help pay for maintenance of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The River Cafe is located on city parkland next to the Fulton Landing and is appearing before the CB2 Health, Environment and Social Services committee as part of the application process for a cabaret license.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense (BBPDF) President Judi Francis learned of the application and began sending out emails to civic groups asking they attend the meeting and lobby for some of the money obtained through their expanded license to go towards maintenance of the park.

“The River Cafe occupies about one acre of the park’s land and pays under $20,000 per year in rent. They do not contribute anything else to the ‘park’ unlike other restaurants in other parks. Perhaps a deal could be struck with this new license,” she wrote in the email.

River Cafe Michael “Buzzy” O’Keeffe pays $5,536 a month in rent. The lease was signed in 1977 when he opened and runs through 2025.

O’Keeffe could not be reached at press time.

The BBPDF and a few others in the community surrounding the 85-acre waterfront park have long protested the proposed development of housing in the park to defray the cost of its maintenance.

The cabaret application comes as the city is readying a request for proposals (RFP) for a restaurant on Pier 6 near the Atlantic Avenue end of the park.

Francis said the community wants the restaurant on Pier 6 and advocates for it to include a bar and other amenities.

She believes it is not right that the city is putting out an RFP without community input, she said.

Francis noted that Regina Myer, who heads the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (BBPDC) for the state, has repeatedly said over the last three years that she will establish a citizens’ advisory council for giving input into developing the park, but she has yet to do it.

BBPDC spokesperson Elizabeth Mitchell said the agency remains committed to establishing a Citizens’ Advisory Council and expects to make an announcement in the near future.

Meanwhile, CB 2 District Manager Rob Perris called it a red herring to get the River Park Cafe to give proceeds to the park in order to get a cabaret license.

“A cabaret license is a non-descretionary license,” said Perris.

“This means if the applicant has not been in trouble with the law, is in the right zoning district and the building meets certain requirements, then the commissioner of Consumer Affairs is required to grant the license,” he added.

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