CB3 Denies Both Soho House and the Living Room

Posted on: May 21st, 2013 at 5:39 am by
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[Nick Jones, Founder of Soho House]One longtime Lower East Sider put it rather appropriately – how it’s residents versus businesses now, with the Community Board 3 SLA subcommittee meeting the proverbial boxing ring. Same deal every month, but last night was another for the books; one that attracted a significant NIMBY turnout and plenty of media (and neighbors) to observe. The two big-ticket items on the agenda – The Living Room and Soho House – chewed up the lion’s share of the allotted time. Indeed, it took nearly three hours to discuss and vote, with both resulting in denials.

The venerable Living Room appeared first to argue for the former laundromat at 173 East Second Street. Co-founders Jennifer Gilson and Steve Rosenthal explained the significance of their venue in the neighborhood fabric, and the respect they command both for and from the community. In the end, their achilles heel was actually a zoning technicality, and not so much the opposition on the block (90 signatures and the ire of 2nd Street Block Association). As it stands, this stretch of Second Street was grandfathered into a general residence district, and doesn’t allow for any performances with cover charges. There was reportedly contact with the DOB to settle this issue, but the Living Room hadn’t heard any news as of last night. And they didn’t have the luxury of laying over the application another month due to landlord/lease constraints, so a vote had to transpire. The denial was unanimous, with the board citing that this wasn’t the appropriate location for the music venue.

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[Jennifer Gilson and Steve Rosenthal of the Living Room]Soho House was a more controversial application, natch. The members-only social club finally showed after months of holdovers and proactive outreach (i.e. open houses). Founder Nick Jones and his lawyer apparently heard the neighborhood concerns about public benefit – needed for liquor in a saturated area – and decided to dedicate basement space at 139 Ludlow Street to the Educational Alliance (and even for CB3 meetings). A fair shake of opposers and supporters gave testimony, with the main points of contention being congestion concerns, noise issues, and overall gentrification.

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Supporters crowned daytime foot traffic as the bandwagon onto which local establishments (e.g. Meatball Shop, Grey Lady) and the LES BID jumped. Members championed the space as great for those needing to network and conduct business. (No mention was made of co-working spaces like The Yard).

Detractors argued that bringing 400 additional souls into Hell Square to get liquored up is detrimental. And CB3 ultimately agreed, despite the apparent willingness of the applicants to negotiate the ask. Alex “Tell It Like It Is” Militano brought a motion to deny that was narrowly carried by a 6 to 4 vote.

It’s now on to the full board meeting at the end of the month for the final say…

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