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Shuttered Williamsburg nightclub Brooklyn Mirage wants fourth chance

Brooklyn Paper
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The organizers of controversial Williamsburg pop-up nightclub the Brooklyn Mirage — which the city caught selling booze without a permit, then shut twice for fire hazards last year — are pleading for the community to give them a fourth chance so they can reopen the massive outdoor venue at Stewart Avenue and Meserole Street this summer.

The party planners came to Community Board 1 earlier this month seeking its blessing for a liquor license, and went all out to win members over — spending tens of thousands of dollars to lobby local politicians, hiring a former Police Department bigwig to design their security plan, and promising a special private hotline for locals to complain about problems — as first reported by DNA Info.

But some members still say it’ll take more than that to win their trust back.

“No, of course [I don’t trust them],” said Jan Peterson, a Community Board 1 member and longtime Williamsburger. “There’s too much money involved.”

The state rejected the club’s application for temporary booze-slinging permits last summer, on the grounds that the warm-weather venue isn’t the kind of one-off event those are designed for — but police busted it selling alcohol at its opening party anyway, and the Department of Buildings closed the venue the following week because it wasn’t up to code.

By that point, the community board members said they’d lost faith in the Mirage, and rejected its application for a full-time liquor license in a decisive 39–3 vote.

Not to be deterred, the company then paid a lobbying firm $60,000 to try to win over local pols, according to state records, and returned to the community board on Feb. 15 with apologies, a whole new pitch, and Assemblywoman Maritza Davila (D–Bushwick) in tow.

“I know we made mistakes and didn’t do our homework right before we first approached the board last year, I know we didn’t make a very good impression,” said Billy Bildstein of Swedish events company Avant Gardner Productions, also known as CityFox.

Bildstein told the room that he has now brought on a former police officer who specialized in event-planning to create a security plan, which includes guards and signs on the way from the subway station to the event, and a hotline locals can call with complaints instead of 311.

The city deemed the Mirage “imminently perilous to life” last year, but now the company has hired James Colgate, a Department of Buildings honcho, to ensure its structures are up to snuff, he said.

Bildstein also promised the venue would host events other than parties, such as farmers markets, film screenings, and dance classes for seniors.

Davila — who attended a large meeting about the Mirage with area pols at Borough Hall last summer and has met with Bildstein and lobbyists in private meetings twice since then — urged the board members to give the party palace another chance.

“We’ve shut them down badly, and you know what, that shows a lot when you come back and face this crowd here and say ‘no, I’m listening to you, I understand what you’re saying, and we’re following the rules,’ ” he said.

Borough President Adams is also backing the application, although he claims he didn’t meet with any lobbyists.

He says the venue will bring jobs and entertainment to Brooklynites, and believes that the most effective way to police law-breaking promoters is to fine them, not close their venues.

“Addressing consumer violations should be done by education or fine, not by threatening people’s jobs,” said the Beep’s spokesman Stefan Ringel.

The club doesn’t technically need the community board’s endorsement for a liquor license — it is ultimately up to the State Liquor Authority — but its recommendation will likely carry some weight given last year’s problems.

The Mirage’s owners will next appear before the board’s liquor license committee on Thursday.

Weigh in at Community Board 1’s liquor license committee meeting at the Swinging Sixties Center (211 Ainslie St. at Manhattan Avenue in Williamsburg), March 2 at 6:30 pm.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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