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Whine merchants! CB1 approves oddly controversial tapas bar

Luis Santiago, a neighborhood resident, stood up for his claim that noisy slug and chug bars only let him sleep for three hours in a good night.
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A Williamsburg community board approved a liquor license for a surprisingly controversial upscale wine bar that an angry group of residents has bitterly fought on the grounds that the party neighborhood is oversaturated with watering holes — even though the opponents were silent when 19 other bars were rubber-stamped for the same licenses.

On Wednesday night, Community Board 1 voted 17–14 to recommend a liquor license for Custom American Wine Bar — the Driggs Avenue tapas bar that has become the focus of neighborhood ire.

“Finally, experienced operators are coming to the neighborho­od,” said board member Mieszko Kalita, who chaired a raucous public safety committee meeting last Thursday where dozen opponents clashed with 30 supporters.

“We want to welcome them,” he added. “With a bar like this, our streets are alive and not just closed gates. These owners have six liquor licenses in Manhattan without any complaints.”

Opponents — including actor Danny Hoch — persisted, saying that the bar will attract binge drinkers, public urinators and gang violence, but co-owner Stefan Mailvaganam, who also co-owns Bar Carrera, a tapas bar in Manhattan, brought in supporters who questioned the opponents’ motives last week.

“Custom American Wine Bar will attract the opposite of gangs and frat boys,” said Yann de Rochefort, who owns Boqueria tapas bar in Manhattan. “The community board should encourage places like Stefan’s.”

The Public Safety Committee did not fully agree on Thursday, sending a mixed message in the form of a tie vote — the only non-approval of a very long night of rubber-stamping liquor license applications. That brought the liquor license request to the full community board on Wednesday night. The approval was conditioned on the bar closing at midnight on weekdays and at 2 am on weekends.

The saga to get a license has consumed four months and $20,000, said Mailvaganam and his co-owner Dan Lathroum, who particularly objected to opponents’ claim that “outsiders” have ruined Williamsburg because he lives on N. Fourth Street, not far from his proposed bar.

But on Wednesday, Mailvaganam was relieved.

“The most important thing right now is to bring everyone in the community back together,” he said. “There is no ill will between us, and we want to demonstrate that this is a restaurant for everyone.”

Even in a party-hardy neighborhood like Williamsburg, liquor license controversies are extremely rare, said Kalita. “This is the first time there has been such a roar,” he said.

It remains unclear what the opponents find objectionable about the wine bar. Last week, opponents would not talk on the record, but they did circulate an unsigned e-mail that began, “The fight against the bars continues.”

“The issue is not whether the bar owners are nice and willing to negotiate with the community, but that there are already five establishments with full liquor licenses within 500 feet [of Custom American Wine Bar],” it said. “We can’t be distracted by the owners’ statements that they want to be a part of our community and improve it! We have the right to chose what constitutes improvement and livability.”

Last Thursday’s hearing was frequently heated, with the owner of the building, Dobrivoye Filipovich, getting tossed after calling a staffer for Councilwoman Diana Reyna “a drug dealer” and branding Wechter a “criminal.”

Later, his son, Greg Filipovich, said that he trusts the wine bar owners and, besides, he needs a stable tenant to fill his empty space.

“My taxes have doubled from $20,000 to $40,000,” he said. “If we can’t get this liquor license then I will have to open a 24-hour bodega. Then, [the neighbors] will really get a crowd of kids hanging around.”

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

joey from points unknown says:
ridiculous. when someone wants to invest and risk their own money in YOUR community, you don't turn them away. welcome them with open arms. do you know what happens when row after row of commercial stores go vacant? when there's no jobs for the community, that's what brings the drugs, crime, etc.
Oct. 15, 2009, 8:32 am
vinny from williamsburg says:
Yeah joey, when I think bars and restaurants, I think more jobs for the community. Liquor is sold at probably one of the highest mark ups of any product and that's not counting the related tips that essentially pay employees' salaries. This investment can hardly be considered a risk in trustfundburg. There aren't many bars closing down due to lack of drinkers.
Oct. 15, 2009, 10:50 am
teresa from greenpoint says:
... yet running a profitable bar isn't necessarily a no-brainer. The sale of alcohol is one of the most obsessively regulated activities in the state and the city: bar owners have to comply with numerous laws and in Williamsburg and Greenpoint they do get spot inspections. The health department can also send out an inspector to a restaurant at any time for any reason. Add to the mix an establishment that doesn't care how it treats its neighbors, and suddenly the community has numerous tools with which to respond.

Bars, restaurants, bar/restaurants (!) and nightclubs HAVE been closed down in Williamsburg and Greenpoint because they didn't do things right, including being good neighbors. The community's definitely gotten the hang of how to respond to jerks.

And while on the subject... it just doesn't seem that these particular guys are jerks. Let them operate and raise the bar (sorry about the pun) for how a business should be run in a neighborhood, accountable to its neighbors. Let's welcome and support responsible businesses and hound the others out of town.
Oct. 15, 2009, 3:54 pm
Hal from Bklyn says:
Love it: “We can’t be distracted by the owners’ statements that they want to be a part of our community and improve it!"
Nah, things like that are immaterial.
(ROTFLMAO.)
Oct. 16, 2009, 3:06 am
withit from Greenpoint says:
Dobrivoye Filipovich is a well known slumlord in the community with a criminal record. Now he's trying to hide behind his son, Gregory, a failed child actor from the Philippines, to try pushing through a greedy scam. Both are dishonest, to put it mildly. The community opposition is less about the bar than about Filipovich. Ask Dobrivoye Filpovich how he got a police detective to sign his petition, and who this dick is. Ask Gregory Filipovich why he needs to make money being a Brooklyn slumlord if he is such a "hot hunk" in the Philippines. Do they pay him with bananas down there? Ask him also why he needs a stage name. Is he ashamed of his old bastard? (Google Greg Martin)
July 16, 2010, 4:17 pm
GREG FILIPOVICH from GREENPOINT says:
HEY WITHIT! I WOULD POST SOME MORE OFFENSIVE THINGS BUT I RESPECT THE BROOKLYN PAPER

I'M SURE YOU ARE ONE OF THE 3 PROBLEM TENANTS THAT MY FAMILY IS IN COURT WITH. ONE WHO IS BLEEDING THE WELFARE SYSTEM AND STEALING TAX DOLLARS FROM PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY WORK! OR POSSIBLY ON WORKMAN'S COMP FOR A FAKE INJURY.

MY FATHER KEEPS HIS BUILDINGS AS LOW INCOME HOUSING SO THAT PEOPLE CAN AFFORD TO LIVE IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD. OUR RENTS ARE SOME OF THE LOWEST IN NYC. WE HAVE SO MANY HAPPY TENANTS WHO TRY TO MOVE THEIR FRIENDS IN. CERTAIN TENANTS KEEP TRYING TO BLEED HIM DRY BY DAMAGING THE PROPERTIES SO HE WOULD HAVE TO RAISE RENTS TO BALANCE.

P.S. YOU THINK TOM CRUZ OR BRAD PITT'S NAMES ARE REAL?
Aug. 5, 2010, 12:54 pm
GREG FILIPOVICH from GREENPOINT says:
If anyone has any questions or comments regarding myself or my family's business feel free to contact me @ gregflip@hotmail.com

you too "withit"
Aug. 5, 2010, 1:51 pm
GREG FILIPOVICH from GREENPOINT says:
Also come in to Custom Wine Bar and have yourself a drink!
Aug. 5, 2010, 7:56 pm
Novitsa filipovich from greenpoint says:
From what I understand withit is drawing attention away from his toddler prostitution and dog fighting rackets eating away at williamsburg like a cancer, also his petitions for ever larger and larger buttplugs falliing on the manufacturers deaf ears.
Sept. 14, 2012, 10:11 pm

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