'Quiet' Bar Owner OK'd for New Murray Hill Lounge with 2 a.m. Closing Time

By Mary Johnson on February 24, 2012 6:45pm 

Sasha Petraske, pictured here at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, is planning to open a new
Sasha Petraske, pictured here at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, is planning to open a new "quiet" bar on East 33rd Street in Murray Hill.
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Facebook/San Antonio Cocktail Conference

MURRAY HILL — The purveyor of so-called "quiet" bars in the city who battled against a community-imposed closing time of 2 a.m. has relented in quest to stay open late, agreeing to shut down early to get the green light from Community Board 6 for a new lounge in Murray Hill.

Pending the full board’s positive vote and clearance from the State Liquor Authority, Sasha Petraske is now planning to open Middle Branch on East 33rd Street, between Third and Lexington avenues, possibly within the next two months.

Petraske, the owner of the reservation-only Milk & Honey on the Lower East Side and Little Branch in the West Village, hopes that board members will be so impressed with his new bar’s behavior that when he returns to renew his liquor license in two years, they will allow him to extend his hours of operation to 4 a.m.

“If it’s possible for you to make an exception, you’ll make one for me,” Petraske, 38, told members of the Community Board 6 committee that reviews liquor license requests.

Petraske first came before the board back in December with his plans for a 640-square-foot, 66-seat lounge. He knew the area and its reputation for troublesome bars and young, boisterous drinkers, but he pledged to bring the neighborhood something different and more subdued.

“This is what I do with my life, is run quiet bars,” Petraske told the committee. “I really do offer an alternative.”

Indeed, Petraske said he enforces a strict code of conduct at his other establishments, with a stringent set of rules that prohibit hats worn indoors, loud behavior and even the mention of fighting.

According to regulations posted on the bar's website, there is no lingering outside the front door, and guests are advised to leave the establishment "briskly and silently."

“People are trying to sleep across the street," the rules state. "Please make all your travel plans and say all farewells before leaving the bar.”

Guests are advised not to bring friends “unless you would leave that person alone in your home,” according to the rules, and men are not permitted to introduce themselves to the bar’s female patrons.

“Ladies, feel free to start a conversation or ask the bartender to introduce you,” the rules advise. “If a man you don’t know speaks to you, please lift your chin slightly and ignore him.”

Middle Branch — which Petraske said will have a brass band and New Orleans-type feel — will enforce the same guidelines, he explained. And Petraske promised that those who flout the code of conduct will be kicked out and not welcomed back.

“We’re about people who drink like adults, which means quietly,” he explained after the most recent community board meeting.

Petraske said he is also hoping that good behavior will earn him a warm reception when he returns to the community board in two years to renew his liquor license — and that maybe the committee will reward his efforts by allowing a 4 a.m. closing time.

“I’m confident that when they see how we operate, they’ll change their mind,” Petraske said.

Committee members said they would consider such a request, though it remains unclear whether they will bend on their 2 a.m. rule, which the board has been enforcing for nearly two years.

At the meeting on Thursday night, members explained their reasoning for the rule to several other bar owners, describing the chaos that unfolds in the neighborhood on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Hearing that, Petraske made one final plea for a reprieve from the the 2 a.m. rule.

“Let me ask you one cheeky question. I heard what you said about the Friday, Saturday,” Petraske said. “Could I stay open till 4 on Tuesdays?”

“Go home,” said Steve Dubnoff, vice chair of the committee, laughing.

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