They’re lowering the bar to raise the bar.
Borough President Adams will chair a new alliance of restaurant and bar owners that aims to help eateries and nightlife venues obtain liquor licenses and building permits more easily and avoid spats with neighbors. The Brooklyn Nightlife and Restaurant Coalition will grease the wheels of community consultation by installing its members on community boards and encouraging them to communicate more proactively with residents, said its organizer.
“Our industry is plagued with stories of conflict, confusion, and miscommunication, and we want to change that into a narrative of cooperation,” said coalition head Dave Rosen, who is the owner of Williamsburg bar the Woods, which previously had to scrap its plans to expand its backyard garden after neighbors complained about late-night noise.
The coalition — whose members include concert promoter Jake Rosenthal, Jamie Wiseman of Williamsburg dance club Output, and Vanessa Rimando from Roberta’s Pizzeria in Bushwick — aims to replicate Brooklyn Allied Bars and Restaurants, which a group of Williamsburg and Greenpoint establishments started a few years ago. The over-arching board, helmed by Adams — who ultimately appoints all community board members — will help form smaller, similar groups in neighborhoods such as Sunset Park, Park Slope, and Bay Ridge, which can better respond to each community’s unique demands, said Rosen.
“There are different issues in each neighborhoods, so we need to take a hyper-local approach,” he said.
The alliance also aims to improve relations between the hospitality industry and the city agencies they must appease to get their licenses and permits, and which routinely ticket small businesses for health code and other minor infractions, said Adams.
“We cannot continue the culture of taxation through citation and adversary relationships with city government,” said Adams, who launched the coalition at Borough Hall on Wednesday. “We want to find ways to create a symbiotic relationship.”
Adams said more bars and eateries will mean more jobs for Brooklynites and more tourists visiting the borough.
One member of Community Board 1, which serves Williamsburg and Greenpoint, welcomed the news, saying it may help stop knee-jerk reactions to new or expanded venues.
“What usually happens is the signs go up on the doors and then we all react without any information,” said Rob Solano, who is a member of Community Board 1’s liquor license review committee. “Any communication we can get beforehand would be a huge help.”
But some locals say they fear the coalition’s members will just infiltrate community boards and meetings to push their own agenda.
“They are just trying to take over the community boards so they can do what they want to do,” said Sunny Chapman, a member of the Fillmore Place Historic District Association, which has spent the past couple of years adamantly opposing new bars in Williamsburg. “If they actually wanted to improve communication, they would talk to residents and actually listen to our concerns.”
Community Board members are volunteers appointed by the Borough President and council members. They are largely toothless, but field community complaints, review proposals, and make recommendations and requests to city agencies on issues such as land use and sanitation.