State closes down controversial Woodland bar in Park Slope

The State Liquor Authority shutdown Woodland following a stabbing last month.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

State booze officials revoked the liquor license of a controversial Park Slope watering hole Woodland — but not soon enough to avoid a stabbing just days before the shutdown took effect. 

The State Liquor Authority elected to close Woodland, the pub on the corner of Sixth Ave and Flatbush on Dec. 18 for a laundry list of infractions dating back to March 2018, with officials citing violations of the city’s noise ordinance and inappropriately storing mimosas, while noting that the restaurant had become a “focal point of police attention.”

However, the decision to revoke the bar’s liquor license didn’t go into effect until Jan. 3 — 12 days after a Dec. 22 stabbing at Woodland that sent a man to the hospital for stitches. 

Woodland has been a longtime source of grief for nearby residents, and the city’s open data portal shows a whopping 551 noise complaints between June 2, 2012 and Dec. 15, 2019. 

“They’ve been a bad actor for a really long time, and never really worked to address the issues,” said Eric McClure.

Locals shared their complaints with Community Board 6 and brass at the 78th Precinct, accusing Woodland revelers of urinating and defecating in the streets, vomiting, driving drunk, and fighting, which led police to routinely station patrolmen outside the watering hole in 2016.

McClure claims the bar’s liberal brunch policy, which allowed free refills on mimosas for an unlimited amount of time for just $20, was largely to blame for the chaos. After countless complaints, the brunch deal was scaled back to two hours, but the drunkenness continued.

When state liquor honchos first started debating the future of the popular spot’s license to sell hooch over the summer, the bar’s owner claimed his business was being targeted because it attracted a predominantly black clientele to a mostly white neighborhood, and a lobbyist hired to represent the bar at a State Liquor Authority hearing accused neighbors of racism. 

Local leaders shot back, saying the bar’s owner Akiva Ofshtein, who is white, was making life miserable for neighbors and looking to shift the blame away from his failure to manage his clientele. 

“The complaints here have everything to do with the persistent refusal of the owner to be a good neighbor,” Councilman Brad Lander (D—Park Slope), said over the summer. “Other establishments nearby operate bottomless brunches responsibly and do not receive similar complaints.” 

Supporters of the bar say neighbors’ complaints are overblown, and that most of the supposed incidents they’ve complained about are unreported and unproved. 

“Unfortunately once you make enough noise about an issue it can take the place of truth,” said Morgan Flores a community organizer with The Black Institute who had supported the bar during their licensing hearing. 

Flores said the closing has devastated those who used to gather at Woodland for brunch.  

“Everyone has their spot and Woodland was the spot for a lot of people,” she said. 

Flores added that a judged ruled against the restaurant without giving Ofshtein a chance to make his case formally before the state.

This isn’t the first time Woodland’s liquor license has come under threat. In June the license was revoked after the state liquor authority held an emergency hearing, but was quickly reinstated when a judge lifted the emergency order of suspension, leading to the fight that resulted in the license being revoked once and for all in January. 

Ofshtein could not be immediately reached for comment. 

This story previously stated that the State Liquor Authority revoked Woodland’s liquor license after the stabbing occurred. It has been updated to reflect the correct timeline.