CB3 Takes Stand Against 3 Full Liquor Licenses in Hell Square
Denials were in the air last night, as the Community Board 3 SLA subcommittee dropped the hammer on three particular applicants within earshot of Essex and Rivington Streets. This intersection is considered by many to be one of the most problematic in Hell Square (on weekends) thanks to a cacophony of bar-goers, bottlenecked traffic, and symphony of honking horns.
Probably the most controversial application of the evening was La Caverna, which proposed an expansion of its nightclub into the ground floor and mezzanine space above, plus 4am all days. Hubris and/or chutzpah would be the proper descriptors here. The application was torn apart by the panel, and vociferously opposed by more than a half-dozen local residents, including the LES Dwellers and the Suffolk Street Block Association.
Fifteen years after its founding, ownership claimed they wanted to get back to their roots of an “Italian American” restaurant, which was allegedly the initial intent. The fact of the matter is that that concept barely happened (if at all) in the ensuing years, and instead devolved into an unwieldy nightclub. Board members felt strongly against allowing a purportedly disingenuous operator to nab an enormous, not to mention, unlicensed space, while doubling in size and adding a capacity of more than 200 people.
In the end, the panel wasn’t convinced of any public benefit to this alteration in an area that maintains some 40 licenses within 500 feet, and four schools with over 1,500 students coming and going. The application was denied outright.
The same opposition likewise stonewalled the liquor license application for the space catty-corner to La Caverna. Andrea Cohen’s bid to takeover Schiller’s Liquor Bar and transform it into another Bongo locale. She didn’t appear prepared for such staunch opposition to her “Contemporary New England Seafood” concept.
The main concerns were why a full restaurant needs 4am OP privileges, the distance to the door of the Marte Valle school, and the status of the predecessor’s liquor license. Regarding the latter, Schiller’s was able to place its license in safe-keeping with the State Liquor Authority, even though it permanently shuttered back in August. This appears to run contrary to the agency’s directive, specifically that if the licensed premises is permanently closing or otherwise permanently ceasing licensed activities before the expiration date of the current certificate, it must be surrendered to the Authority.
Bongo was also denied outright.
The other denial last night was for Charrua, the three-year-old Uruguayan restaurant at 131 Essex Street. In this case, longtime management is taking over ownership from the principal and sought an alteration in hours and upgrade to full liquor. The board felt it unnecessary, and of no public benefit, to add another full liquor license to the Hell Square perimeter, even though locals seem to enjoy the spot.