Sparks Fly After East Village Club La Vie Denied Liquor License
By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
EAST VILLAGE — Neighbors at their wits' end over an East First Street night club they say regularly blasts music they can hear through their walls confronted the club's owner Monday, leading to charges of racism.
The new operators behind the two-story hookah lounge La Vie, between First and Second avenues, came before Community Board 3 seeking a renewal for their full liquor license, but were turned down based on a history of complaints against the establishment.
Disappointed backers of La Vie, though, claimed there was another reason for the unanimous rejection.
"It's a racist thing," a man identified as Mohammed said before storming out.
Committee member Ariel Palitz wasn't having that.
"If douchebag is a race, then I'm a racist," Palitz said.
Residents from two buildings on the block said that despite having regular communication with the operators regarding the noise and the club's efforts to soundproof the premises, La Vie's thumping bass regularly reverberates through their walls and keeps them up through the night and early morning.
"The fact is they refuse to turn the music down," said Adam Berninger, a resident of the building that houses La Vie on the ground floor, adding that the many hours he and other tenants have spent dealing with the staff "left us completely hopeless for a resolution."
The operators claimed they spent more than $100,000 soundproofing the club over the past month and a half and offered to soundproof residents' homes, but the board's liquor license committee said the issue comes down to simply lowering decibels.
"If your volume is louder than the soundproofing can withstand, then it doesn't matter how much money you put into it," said Palitz, a bar owner herself. "The real issue is about the people living there. [It's] the very simple and totally inexpensive solution of just turning it down."
The committee also said that La Vie, formerly the lounge Boucarou, has been operating as a night club despite its current license representing the space as a pure restaurant.
After the commotion surrounding La Vie's liquor license settled down, the committee returned to voting on other issues.
The operators behind downtown watering holes the 13th Step, Down the Hatch and Off the Wagon got the green light to open a new, 2,000-square-foot bar on Orchard Street in place of a former French restaurant.
A representative for the unnamed tavern outlined plans for the 230-person establishment that will open in the former L'Epicerie Café Charbon space at the corner of Stanton Street.
He said the place will include a pair of bars, private party room, kitchen, live DJ, and will stay open until 4 a.m. The committee noted the operators' experience in running other bars as its reason for approving a full liquor license.
The board also approved a full liquor license transfer for a new Mexican food restaurant that will take over chef Eddie Huang's recently shuttered Taiwanese restaurant Xiao Ye on Orchard Street, near the corner of Houston Street. Xiao Ye was closed following multiple raids by the State Liquor Authority because of Huang's controversial Four Loko drink specials.
The new Mexican restaurant will feature 20 tables and serve food until midnight on weekdays and 1:30 a.m. on weekends, said owner Phillip Barraza.
"Good luck," Huang tweeted after hearing the news. "Don't sell four loko, should be fine."
And finally, the brothers behind popular Greek food truck Souvlaki GR got the thumbs-up for a wine-and-beer license at their first brick-and-mortar restaurant, set to open on Stanton and Essex streets.
The Vendy Award-winning team said the eat-in space will have 10 tables and a small bar, and that will stay open until midnight on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends.