Buzz-y off! CB2 says no to River Cafe owner’s bid for booze on pier

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A community board has said no to River Cafe owner Buzzy O’Keefe’s bid to commandeer a small portion of cherished public open space adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge for booze-fueled private parties.

Community Board 2 voted unanimously last month to oppose a liquor license for the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, a creamery that is owned by O’Keefe and sits next to the iconic River Café — which itself is on public land.

In its 7–0 rejection, board members objected to the notion of mixing a product for kids (ice cream) so close to one for adults (booze). They also objected to ceding any portion of the popular pier for private parties.

The board suggested that O’Keefe’s plan was superfluous, given the Ice Cream Factory’s proximity to other liquor-laden, private-party establishments such as Pete’s Downtown and O’Keefe’s own high-end eatery.

“[The vote] was entirely about their perception of how they thought the pier would best operate,” explained CB2 District Manager Rob Perris.

But O’Keefe and ice-cream parlor manager Mark Thompson said the board was over-reacting to their plans, saying they only want to cater small events between April and December, and on only one-fifth of the 10,000-square-foot pier.

“It’s not really a bar — I’m obviously not looking to hurt my ice cream business,” Thompson said. “We would never do a party that big, but if we had something to offer guests, why not.”

The State Liquor Authority is responsible for making the final decision; a no-vote at the community board doesn’t mean the state will reject the application, but is only an advisory vote.

The ice cream spot opened seven years ago in the landmarked Fireboat House on the pier at the end of Water Street, and business has expanded drastically over the years.

O’Keefe and Thompson’s lease allows the duo to put up a tent on a portion of the pier in the warmer months, but to draw a good crowd, they covet the liquor license.

“I just want to make the pier a positive experience instead of standing there and looking at the view,” Thompson said.

Though open space advocates have long complained about privatization of public space, a couple of tourists said they’d welcome an opportunity to enjoy more than just killer ice cream and killer views at the Fulton Ferry Landing.

“It would be nice to sit out here with a little bar, and have some jazz playing,” said Anne Dawbnay, who is from Australia.

Or, there is always the opportunity for cross marketing.

“They could serve brandy-flavored ice cream!” suggested Merlyn Evans, a British tourist.

— with Makeda Dash

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Reader Feedback

carol from manhattan says:
what's wrong with a glass of wine being served in an ice cream store? happens in Europe all the time. Good call on the private parties though....this public space should be for the public.
Dec. 18, 2008, 6:55 pm

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