The community leader leading the charge in the War on Brunch is recruiting Greenpoint residents to tattle on restaurants that serve diners outdoors on Sundays before noon.
Community Board 1 public safety chairman Tom Burrows asked neighbors to join his fight and help monitor illegal brunching activity at a 94th Precinct council meeting in Greenpoint on Wednesday.
“If you see restaurants serving brunch on the sidewalk before noon, call 311!” said Burrows — who has come to play the role of General Patton in the escalating conflict. “I didn’t pass the law, but that’s the law.”
Department of Consumer Affairs inspectors — deployed after requests from CB1 members — began cracking down on restaurants that serve food and drink outdoors before noon on Sundays in violation of a rarely enforced city blue law that has prohibited the practice since 1971.
The Sunday ban was put in place to promise peace and quiet out of respect for restaurant neighbors on what some view as a day of rest, city officials said.
But anti-brunchers say several restaurants have abused the policy and seated diners outdoors, making life uncomfortable for elderly neighbors.
“I saw a guy in a wheelchair moving himself into the street at 11 am because of the sidewalk crowds,” said Greenpoint resident Kathleen O’Boyle. “These restaurants are not supposed to open until noon. I called the police three times!”
However North Brooklyn’s men and women of the tablecloth say the law does not prevent congregants from coming to their houses of worship.
“The notion that sidewalk dining in some way restricts, inhibits or in any other way interferes with church attendance is utter hogwash,” said Greenpoint Reformed Church Rev. Ann Kansfield.
“If there were so many church-going people in Greenpoint and Williamsburg that sidewalk seating would interfere with church attendance, all of our churches would be packed full of people,” she said. “This is not the case.”
And Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church pastor Joseph Calise said he has not heard complaints about sidewalk traffic from parishioners and that the Brooklyn Diocese did not ask the city to enforce its brunch laws.
Kansfield has even called on CB1 to ask the city to eliminate the “discriminatory” law, since other faiths observe the Sabbath on other days of the week — when brunch is legally served even earlier.
But Burrows defended his position, noting that rebel restaurants must obey the law as it is written and are a “direct affront to the community.”
“When a certain restaurant first applied for a sidewalk cafe, people from the street … were concerned about the sidewalk being blocked,” Burrows wrote in a Facebook thread. “Unfortunately the actions of one are affecting the others since we cannot have selective prosecution of the law. Consequently enforcement against him is impacting others.”
So far, the city’s offensive has worked.
Several cafes surrendered their tables from their sidewalks last weekend after inspectors handed out a summons to Greenpoint bistro Lokal for allegedly serving outdoor diners at 9:35 am.
But rebel restaurant owners are regrouping, securing allies in their fight against the law including Borough President and Bruncher-in-Chief Markowitz and hundreds of diners who signed a petition criticizing the regulation and the city’s tactics.
©2012 Community News Group
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