Editorial: Yes to wine, no to whine

The Brooklyn Paper
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We were pleased that Community Board 1 rejected the complaints of a misguided minority of Williamsburg residents on Wednesday night and recommended a liquor license for a new wine bar on Driggs Avenue.

And it’s not only because we love wine.

Indeed, the larger issue behind this latest confrontation between residents and would-be bar owners is that, all too often, some community members want to halt any changes to their areas on the grounds that newcomers such as bars, restaurants and other businesses are “outsiders” who will destroy the neighborhood.

But who are the outsiders? And what is a neighborhood anyway?

In the case of Custom American Wine Bar, one of the co-owners actually lives a few blocks away. Worse, the opponents abandoned any attempt at objectivity, remaining oddly silent when 19 other bars in the party-hardy neighborhood were approved for liquor licenses at the same meeting of Community Board 1’s public safety committee last week.

Custom American would replace a vacant storefront, so residents’ complaints are misguided for two reasons: lifeless neighborhoods are breeding grounds for crime, and, more important, the site in question is zoned for such establishments, meaning that the teetotalers didn’t do their due diligence before they moved into the neighborhood themselves.

It would be one thing if the owners of Custom American needed a zoning change to operate, but it’s not up to the community board or the State Liquor Authority to stand in the way when long-vacant storefronts, or once-bustling neighborhoods slowly spring back to life in defiance of those who moved there during a down cycle.

We’ve seen this all before, of course. Last year, a similar fight broke out in Carroll Gardens after the owner of the well-liked Black Mountain Wine Bar on the quiet corner of Union and Hoyt streets announced that he wanted to open an oyster bar around the corner on even-quieter Hoyt Street.

Just as in the current wine bar case, neighbors claimed that the new oyster bar would be a menace to the community. But what “community”? Black Mountain Wine Bar, with its cozy fireplace, good food and tidy, farmhouse exterior, is a welcome neighborhood destination and part of the very community that blocked its owner’s equally neighborhood-friendly expansion plan.

More and more, Brooklyn neighborhoods are establishing their own nightlife scenes so that residents no longer have to rely on Manhattan for their entertainment. This revitalizes dormant commercial spaces, provides jobs in Brooklyn, and gives people a chance to hang out with their neighbors without leaving the neighborhood.

We think this is a good thing.

Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Vinny from Brooklyn says:
I agree that this wine bar was unfairly victimized, but some of the logic in this editorial is a bit off. It seems that the editor is using the poor wine bar as a vehicle to explain why there can't be enough bars in the neighborhood. Most people who live in williamsburg don't want it to be another St Mark's place. However, they are not the most consistently vocal people. Instead, we have these sporadic bursts of community board anger from them, rather than a thorough call to review all bar licenses equally and perhaps do something about the zoning in the area regarding bars. The majority of residents don't have time to write articles and blogs, so most of what you hear and read is the thoughts of a minority of people who think that it's everyone's constitutional right to have a liquor license. It is naive to argue that the "teetotalers" should have done their homework and found out that the area was zoned for bars before they moved in. Just because zoning permits a bar, doesn't mean we should have blocks of them. Isn't that the whole point of having hearings to discuss the licenses? I want the editor to go meet with immigrants and elderly living in rent controlled buildings for years and tell them that they should deal with noise, because they didn't do their zoning homework. Getting a liquor license isn't something everyone is entitled to unless they have a criminal background or poor business record. It's a quality of life issue. The complainants were wrong about denying this business. However, their anger is from the bigger problem of a lot of things in general regarding the direction williamsburg is going. It's easy to criticize them, because they didn't act on other bars opening up in the neighborhood. However, don't use that to discredit what is becoming a problem for residents of williamsburg. The building owner at the hearing complained that he couldn't get any other commercial tenants for his building. Why doesn't anyone inquire about how easy it is find good tenants for the apartments in buildings adjacent to the bars opening up? Williamsburg has a lot of the wrong kind of activists getting their voices heard. That's the problem. If you are offended by being called an "outsider" act like an insider and protect your neighborhood. Finally, the fact there were so many articles written on this issue is actually a bit moronic, as community boards don't issue the licenses, and the liquor board often places little to no weight on what we have to say. That's why regulations and legislation is what we really need.
Oct. 16, 2009, 11:24 am

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