Traffic Bar Keeps Up the Volume, Residents Say
HELL'S KITCHEN — Traffic is still bad in Hell's Kitchen, residents say.
The bar at 701 Ninth Ave. once again came before the Community Board 4 Business Licenses and Permits committee on Tuesday, just one month after owner Michael O'Neil pledged to make a series of sweeping changes to address a multitude of complaints from neighbors.
"Something didn't work," said committee co-chair Paul Seres. "It seems like you're trying to do everything correctly, but we're not there yet, and that's why were here."
The committee pointed out that if monthly complaints continue, it might reach out to elected officials, which could prompt the State Liquor Authority to move to revoke Traffic's liquor license.
Traffic almost immediately got flack from neighbors after its May opening, for blasting music outside and keeping their large garage-style doors open late. Last month, the bar pledged to turn down the music, and make changes to their soundsystem, and while some residents say there have been some improvements, many neighbors said things were still bad throughout October.
"To me, it's the same thing every weekend, nothing's changed," said Virginia Montes, who lives above the bar.
O'Neil defended his plan to become a better neighbor, saying that the bar has started playing music at a lower level, and is about to spend approximately $20,000 on a soundproofing overhaul for the bar's sound system.
"I think it's really just time, some things have been done and some things haven't," O'Neil said. "People living above is very hard to deal with for us."
"That's not the right answer," Seres responded.
Residents said that while the soundproofing was a step in the right direction, the bar's staff were often unresponsive or even rude when they expressed concerns about noise.
"[O'Neil's] not there. I call, no one answers the phone," said Montes.
Seres, himself an operator of nightlife establishments, took the opportunity to lecture O'Neil in the art of keeping neighbors happy.
"Whoever you have as a manager, when you have a complaint from someone in the building, and they don't make that priority number one, short of somebody choking to death or the place burning down, we're going to have a problem," he said.
O'Neil said he would work with neighbors to better respond to their complaints, including giving his cell phone number to people that live above and near the bar, encouraging them to contact him immediately if they had any concerns.
"To me, you've got a personnel problem, you've got people that are not responding to people that have issues," Seres said. "Those issues can be taken care of a lot easier than you spending all this money on all this soundproofing."