Stone Street Bar Owner Gets OK to Take Over Problematic Murray Hill Lounge

By Jill Colvin on January 5, 2012 1:32pm 

A rendering of the planned new rooftop deck at Red Sky.
A rendering of the planned new rooftop deck at Red Sky.
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studioPEDRAZZI Architecture + Design

MIDTOWN — The owner of a handful of Stone Street's most popular watering holes has cleared the first hurdle to taking over Murray Hill's problematic Red Sky Lounge after pledging thousands to sound proof the nightspot.

Ronan Downs, who owns many famous pubs and eateries along the Financial District's buzzing Stone Street including the Dubliner and the Stone Street Tavern, was given unanimous backing Wednesday night by Community Board 5's liquor license committee for his plans to take over Red Sky.

The three-story lounge with a rooftop bar on East 29th Street, across from the new Gansevoort Park hotel, has been the focus of neighborhood complaints.

Community members said the two-story lounge and its rooftop bar had been a constant source of misery, with a stream of rowdy, drunk and noisy patrons keeping them up at night, trashing a neighboring condo’s lobby, starting fights with staff and pelting balconies with everything from bottles to condoms and raw eggs.

"The former owner blatantly disregarded anything [bar-goers] did outside," complained Dr. Shaun Rodgers, who lives on the neighboring building's 17th floor. Others complained of drunken patrons hanging around outside and urinating and vomiting on the street.

Downs is hoping to turn Red Sky into a gastropub and has already begun extensive renovations on the space. But he hit a snag when he appeared before the committee in December 2011 and was met with a barrage of complaints.

Downs said at the time he was shocked by the level of frustration and what was going on at the bar.

"I feel badly for the people living here," Downs told the board at the time. “We did not know the extent of the trouble. That will not happen under out watch.”

Faced with a room full of angry residents at a hearing on the takeover last month, the committee postponed its vote to give Downs and his team time to come up with a plan to address residents’ concerns and cut down on the noise.

This time around, the team was better prepared, arriving with an extensive plan to minimize sound, including installing noise-baffling panels, and a pledge to erect a Plexiglas wall along the balcony’s ledge “to prevent anyone from throwing anything over the balcony," Downs said.

Red Sky has been closed for more than a month as its new owners renovate.
Red Sky has been closed for more than a month as its new owners renovate.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

"[The goal] is to produce a rooftop that is not going to disturb the neighbors," he said.

While some returning residents sounded pessimistic, committee members said they felt confident the new team had gotten the message.

“I think that we’re satisfied with [plans to control] the smoking and crowds and noise out front," said committee chair Nicholas Athanail before the unanimous vote to recommend approval by the board. “We’re happy to welcome you to CB5.”

Doris Marksohn, who lives on the neighboring building's second floor and had complained of being terrorized by bar-goers who played games involving throwing things onto her balcony, said she was pleased to see the changes and hopeful the new owners would deliver on their promise of an end to noise and aggravation.

"We are always looking for good establishments in the neighborhood," she said.

The full board is expected to vote on the license at its next meeting  on Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. at St. Xavier High School.

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