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

The late show: Millman bill would turn bar patios into pumpkins at stroke of midnight
The Brooklyn Paper / Ben Muessig

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.”

The Brooklyn Paper / Gregory P. Mango

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.

Jim Rowe of Trophy Bar in Williamsburg is upset by a state bill that would close his gorgeous patio at midnight on weekends.
Photo by Tom Callan