Heathers' Liquor License Renewal Bid Shot Down

By Patrick Hedlund on September 20, 2011 2:12pm 

Heather Millstone behind the bar at her namesake East 13th Street establishment.
Heather Millstone behind the bar at her namesake East 13th Street establishment.
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Flickr/taulu

EAST VILLAGE — A popular neighborhood bar that played a key role in the high-profile trial of two former police officers acquitted of raping a woman in her East 13th Street apartment received a blow from the local community board in a bid to renew its liquor license.

Heathers, the six-year-old bar helmed by owner Heather Millstone, was denied by Community Board 3’s liquor license committee Monday night due to a history of complaints over noise from the small space on East 13th Street near Avenue A.

Heathers came into the spotlight earlier this year during the trial of former NYPD officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata, who were captured on the bar’s surveillance cameras returning multiple times to the apartment of a young fashion executive they were accused of raping. Millstone herself took the stand back in April to testify about meeting with the accuser at her bar.

Despite Millstone invoking her establishment’s prominent role in assisting the case, a collection of neighbors on the block hammered the owner at the meeting for the consistent noise of its patrons.

The committee detailed a host of complaints concerning the bar this summer, including reports of loud music from the space and doormen not doing their jobs properly, after Millstone agreed to adhere to a list of stipulations back in 2009 to address the ongoing issues.

While neighbors agreed that the situation at Heathers improved soon after the stipulations were set forth, many charged the bar with letting the problem deteriorate this year. Neighbors alleged everything from crowds gathering on the street “yammering away” to patrons urinating and smoking marijuana outside the space.

“Our biggest problem is Heathers,” said a resident of 500 E. 13th St., speaking of the cluster of bars along the northern end of Avenue A.

Others took a more alarmist tone, calling the ongoing noise problems at the bar “a contagion spreading through the whole neighborhood,” according to one resident who lives across the street from Heathers.

Heathers owner Heather Millstone and her attorney Frank Palillo at Community Board 3's liquor license committee meeting on Mon., Sept. 19, 2011.
Heathers owner Heather Millstone and her attorney Frank Palillo at Community Board 3's liquor license committee meeting on Mon., Sept. 19, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Hedlund

“It’s anarchy, and for that reason their liquor license should be taken away,” he added.

Defenders of the bar, including staff and other residents of the block, described security as working aggressively to deal with patrons. They also touted the establishment’s diverse clientele and many local customers as reasons for its success.

“There are few spaces … that offer such a unique experience,” Millstone said, later calling herself the “epitome” of a good operator. “I have the most unobtrusive bar on a block of bars.”

The owner also referred to Heathers’ role in the rape trial, noting the importance of her surveillance footage to the case.

“Because of those security cameras, they were able to capture this crime,” Millstone said.

Ultimately, though, the bar and neighbors were not able to meet in the middle, with Millstone saying that residents barely used an agreed-upon contact system whereby they could call or text message her with any issues as they happened.

Residents shot back that “they shouldn’t have to be the police.”

“This feels like a much bigger disconnect to me,” said committee chair Alexandra Militano.

After failing to pass a motion that would have postponed the committee’s vote a month, to give the two sides time to organize regular meetings, the committee voted to recommend denying Heathers’ liquor license renewal.

Millstone declined to comment after the meeting.

Community Board 3's full board will vote on the committee's decision on Sept. 27. The State Liquor Authority will make the final decision regarding the bar’s license.

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