Village Gay Bar Wins Community Board Support for Liquor License

By Andrea Swalec on July 22, 2011 3:25pm 

GREENWICH VILLAGE —The gay bar Pieces, a West Village staple for 18 years, won conditional approval of a liquor license for a proposed new location at raucous community board meeting Thursday night attended by dozens of their supporters and many detractors.

Community Board 2 voted 33 in favor of approval, 8 against and 3 in abstention for the bar's liquor license for 61. W. Eighth St.

It was a stark reversal from a July 14 vote by CB 2's State Liquor Authority subcommittee, where members voted to nix Pieces' liquor license over concerns about noise and a glut of bars on West 8th Street.

There are 16 bars within 500 feet of Pieces' proposed new location, residents said.

"I'm happy," said Eric Einstein, owner of Pieces. "It's pretty difficult to change a negative to a positive with [Community Board 2], so, I'm happy."

Pieces opened its current location at 8 Christopher St. in 1993 but could not re-sign its lease there because the building's landlord plans to gut and renovate the building, Einstein said.

Support for the liquor license is conditional on a 2 a.m. closing time seven days a week.

Some of the other conditions Einstein must seal all the windows, soundproof the space, post a sign outside asking patrons to be quiet, monitor smokers and loiterers and install a vestibule or double door at the entrance to muffle noise.

Community board members and residents opposed to the approval argued that the area is saturated with bars and cannot withstand any additional noise.

It wasn't the bar that residents opposed, some said, it was the noise.

"The bars keep moving in, but we the residents cannot move out," said Carol Wilson of the West 8th Street Block Association.

"It's not the people. It sounds like a great place. But once they get the liquor license, there's no going back," Village resident John Moodie said.

Einstein presented the board with a poster showing the proximity of the bar's current location to its proposed location and brought a box filled with more than 4,000 petitions of support.

"We're not adding a liquor license to the neighborhood. We're moving 325 feet — literally a stone's throw away," Einstein said.

He estimated that fundraisers at the bar for LGBT and AIDS-related organizations have raised $500,000.

His supporters stood, cheered and waved fliers in support.

Michael Jones, who performs in drag as Witti Repartee, said that Pieces has been a meaningful home to his performance group, the Imperial Court of New York, since 1997.

This week, the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce announced its support of the approval of Pieces' liquor license application, arguing that it has a good record and that business development is needed on West Eighth Street, which is home to many vacant storefronts.

The State Liquor Authority is not required to follow community board recommendations. But the board's say does weigh heavily in the SLA's decisions.

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