The late show: Millman bill would turn bar patios into pumpkins at stroke of midnight

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The city that never sleeps now apparently wants to nod off by midnight.

A Carroll Gardens lawmaker is pushing a bill that would close backyard and rooftop bars by 12 am on weekends — and ban all outdoor amplified music at such establishments.

The bill, drafted by Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens) would apply to all bars and restaurants less than 10 stories high or within 500 feet of residential properties in New York City — meaning basically everywhere in Brownstone Brooklyn.

Supporters of the so-called “Millman Cut-off” say that late patio boozing burdens neighbors with the boom of drunken voices.

“We’ve gotten a lot of complaints about it,” Millman said. “We’re not trying to put anyone out of business; if you are a good, responsible owner then it won’t affect you.”

But bar operators who depend on open-air drinking — especially in sweaty summer months — say it’s not that simple.

“We’re competing with Manhattan,” said Jim Rowe, who runs Trophy Bar in Williamsburg, and closes his patio at 1 am out of respect to neighbors. “What we’re doing now is already reasonable.”

According to the most recent Zagat Survey, New York City has more than 1,300 nightlife venues that pour more than $9 billion into the city’s economy. That number would only decrease if the Millman bill became law.

The assemblywoman said she had not researched the impact that restricted nightlife hours could have on the city or even her native Carroll Gardens, a neighborhood that has been revitalized in part by bars and restaurants that turned Smith Street into the city’s “Restaurant Row.”

Still, Community Board 6 voted unanimously last Wednesday to support the bill, saying limits need to be set. Board members specifically cited the need for new restrictions in light of the Barclays Center basketball arena, which will open next year.

“New places are opening up, bringing in sports people,” said Tom Miskel of Community Board 6. “We want backyard regulations enforced.”

The vote comes after neighbors and the community board battled over Prime 6, a bar near the Barclays Center site that initially planned to have live music and offer a late-night, open-air patio — but then agreed to a compromise with neighbors, including an 11 pm outdoor curfew.

It’s not the first time that a culture clash has threatened to turn nightlife operators into scapegoats. Last month, the chairman of Community Board 1 proposed a moratorium on all new bars in Williamsburg, saying that the neighborhood has become a Pabst-soaked partyland. Community Board 2 also briefly shot down a bunch of restaurant liquor licenses in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, likening one eatery to a “gin mill.”

It’s the second go-around for Millman’s bill, which was introduced last year, but has been changed to reflect later hours. The bill would also require all bars to obtain a special outdoor alcohol permit and to stop serving by 11 pm on weekdays.

“I don’t see how anybody would not support it,” said Sharon Davidson of North Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District, which is backing the bill.

Mike Winsch — who runs The Rock Shop on Fourth Ave — can see why bar owners would not support it. His concert-sports-bar hybrid boasts a large outdoor patio that is arguably the bar’s biggest summertime draw.

“This is a bummer,” he said.

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Reader Feedback

Or from Yellow Hook says:
Great idea - now reduce the fee for the liquor license by 20% for the time these places must close.

Uh-oh, the state will have to give back money – that’ll never happen!
May 16, 2011, 7:48 am
JudahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
This bill is as nutty as it's sponsor's photo.
8.2 million people in NYC lady. Some of us wants to drink til sunrise. It wasn't our fault you need have a nightlife.
Get a grip u party pooper.
Isn't making all the money enuff for you nerds? You want to now tell us when , how & where to have our beers?
How elitist & Dictatorial of you!

I've overcome my disorder of sitting in my underwear @ home drinking beers @2am. What am I to do when you shut it down?
Bad idea! Am all about the beer.

With Pedestrian Islands NYC is becoming pretty hicky.

I blame Park Slopers , (the 5mph, suddenly stopping for squirrel to run across the road sect).
If only I knew why?
May 16, 2011, 10:04 am
Paul from Ft. Greene says:
This sounds like a great bill that balances the rights of business owners and of all the residents who have invested their life savings to actually buy into a neighborhood to live. Nobody should be allowed to ruin the lives of the folks who live here, and surely not so folks can get drunk on a commercial patio!

PS: Is someone pretending to be JudahSpechal?
May 16, 2011, 10:25 am
question says:
the bill includes language about cutting off backyard use on week nights at earlier hours. what time?
May 16, 2011, 12:21 pm
gowanusgus from gowanus says:
any organized opposition to this dumb bill? No one moved to new york wanting to end up in the suburbs
May 16, 2011, 4:03 pm
tommy from brooklyn heights says:
This is terrible for bar owners, terrible for drinkers, and irrelevant for neighbors, since smokers are going to hang outside every bar everywhere anyways.

Assemblywoman Millman, if you feel New York is too noisy, there's a nice country club development in Florida where you can get all the peace and quiet you desire. Retire. You've earned it.
May 16, 2011, 9:47 pm
Greg from Cobble Hill says:
I am the bartender in the picture.
While I will always find it thrilling enough to see a picture of myself in print, I question the use of it and the reference to the bar I work at in this article. The photo was taken several years ago as part of a wholly different article about the rise in popularity of cask-conditioned ales, and while I certainly don't object to the photo being used as a representation of a neighborhood bar/bartender, I was disturbed by the lack of accuracy in its caption. The Brooklyn Paper here asserts that "The Brazen Head on Atlantic Avenue [...] would be affected by a bill curtailing outdoor drinking hours." Our policy for a number of years at the bar has been closing the outdoor patio at 11 PM -- an hour earlier than Assemblywoman Millman's proposed midnight curfew. We have always tried to stay responsible and conscientious to our neighbors, and I think that it is an example of irresponsible journalism to print this kind of misinformation without bothering to check the facts.
May 17, 2011, 3 am
Fred from Harlem says:
Why don't all of the bars just move out of Brooklyn all together to see how they'll feel after that. Then we'll see what bill assemblywoman Millman is going to think of next. Maybe she will move into that little country club in Florida Tommy is talking about.
May 17, 2011, 8:39 am
ty from pps says:
Greg -- Why would Natalie O'Neill start to be accurate or represent the fact fairly now? She doesn't in anything else she writes.
May 18, 2011, 10:03 pm

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