Webster Hall Team Planning ‘Mul-Bay Cocktail Lounge’ on Mulberry Street, Sparking Fierce Opposition

Posted on: August 12th, 2015 at 5:00 am by
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Veterans of Webster Hall are headed south to Chinatown for a new tiki bar concept. Seems like nightlife in general is migrating in this general direction thanks to a slew of storefront vacancies.

According to SLA application materials filed with Community Board 3 this month, something called Mul-Bay Cocktail Lounge has plans for the recently departed Han May Meats space at 69 Mulberry (at Bayard). Owner Lon Ballinger joins Co-president Kenny Schachter as principals of the new business. But with the Webster Hall pedigree backing the proposal, there are some legit concerns about the operation and its host neighborhood.

Just look at the menu. It’s not too extensive, an early warning that a club is likely within this Trojan Horse. Mul-Bay will serve its cocktail beverages alongside a “street food and dim sum styled menu” in line with its adopted neighborhood. Operating hours are until 4am every night. “Window food service” is also listed in the application.

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There is already vehement opposition from Chinatown, though. CB3 member Karlin Chan is leading the charge, collecting petition signatures in opposition ahead of the SLA subcommittee meeting next week. We are told that Webster Hall initially pitched Mul-Bay as “Kimlau Gardens,” claiming the bar would “liven up” and “bring young Chinese” back to Chinatown. Offend much? Not to mention, its working name was deemed offensive; Benjamin Kimlau was a Chinese American war hero who died in battle flying a B-24 during WWII, and it didn’t seem right to name the bar after him. (Chatham Square has an arch commemorating Kimlau.)

“There is no pretense that Kimlau Gardens would be anything but a bar mainly serving alcohol,” Chan tells us in an email. “In a shop this small there isn’t room for a kitchen, tables and bar. If Webster Hall is any indication of how they would address crowd control, then we are in trouble.”

In the end, some locals don’t understand why the building owner – whose father started Han May Meats in the 1960s – would sell out to nightlife. Especially this bar.

Mul-Bay Cocktail Lounge (aka Kimlau Gardens) goes before CB3 next Monday night for a full liquor license.

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