Residents and Owner Clash over East Village Restaurant's Liquor License

By Serena Solomon on November 15, 2011 7:59pm 

Jason Hennings, owner of Diablo Royale, addressed the SLA committee on complaints about his restaurant.
Jason Hennings, owner of Diablo Royale, addressed the SLA committee on complaints about his restaurant.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

EAST VILLAGE — Residents clashed with the owner of Mexican restaurant Diablo Royale at a Community Board 3 meeting on Monday night. The committee denied its support of the renewal of the venue's liquor license, following a heated 30-minute exchange.

At the fiery State Liquor Authority committee meeting, a sometimes-irate Jason Hennings, owner of Diablo, labeled residents' complaints against his restaurant as "lies". In turn, residents complained of noise, rowdy patrons and illegal backyard use by the venue.

“When someone is trying to tear down your livelihood you can defend it,” said Hennings. “I am not a diplomat. I am a restaurant.”

Hennings, who opened the East Village location in May 2010 and has another one in the West Village, took on several residents who asked the committee to deny support for the liquor license renewal. Diablo currently has a full liquor license, which allows the restaurant to sell beer, wine and liquor.  

“Diablo has demonstrated they will not adhere to stipulations,” said Andrew Coamey, who lives on Avenue A near the restaurant and is the CFO and Senior Vice President for Housing at Housing Works.

He presented the committee with pack containing photographs and dated incidences that Coamey said proved Diablo was not operating as a family establishment, but rather as a “lounge and tequila bar.”

“They can’t control the noise or crowds from their patrons and are clearly not running the family friendly Mexican restaurant the board approved,” he said, of CB3 initial decision to grant a liquor license when the establishment opened. 

Hennings and Coamey exchanged heated words during the meeting and on numerous occasions members of the committee had to ask Hennings to be quiet. At one stage Hennings accused Coamey of being a “prolific activist” and staging a “witch hunt” against him.

Coamey had previously spoken out about his dislike for the state of the East Village, comparing it to a red light district in a recent New York Post article. He has also spoken out about his support for the Occupy Wall Street protest.

Andrew Coamey reads a statement to the SLA committee of Community Board 3.
Andrew Coamey reads a statement to the SLA committee of Community Board 3.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

As documented in a post in 2010 by the Ev Grieve blog, Coamey and Hennings have been butting heads on the issue of Diablo's liquor license for more than 12 months. 

Coamey wasn't the only resident to speak out against Diablo at the meeting. Meri Micara, 44, lives above the restaurant  and said the noise from people waiting or smoking outside the restaurant had impacted her lifestyle.

“What is good about this place?” she said. “This has been the worst issue in my life.”

Micara even pointed to Diablo's low C-rating from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene questioning what the restaurant added to the neighborhood.

Hennings continued to defend the reputation of his establishment throughout the meeting, arguing the complaints of residents were unfounded.

“There is no proof. There is no burden of proof for these lies,” he said.

Diablo Royale’s request for the support of Community Board 3 for its liquor license renewal will go towards the full board meeting on November 22nd.

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