Boxers Denied Liquor License for Hell's Kitchen Location

By Mathew Katz | February 29, 2012 6:14pm 

MANHATTAN — Boxers' run was brief.

The State Liquor Authority shot down a liquor license application for the controversial Hell's Kitchen gay sports bar — ruling it was too close to an entrance to a nearby school.

The 2-0 decision Wednesday capped months of battles between the bar's owner and locals who didn't want the watering hole right next to the schoolyard of P.S. 111 on 10th Avenue and 53rd Street and involved creative arguments on both sides about the rules that governed the saloon's location.

Under state rules, bars must be 200 feet from a school's entrance. 

But the school's principal, Irma Medina, and parents managed to successfully argue that a gate to the schoolyard on West 52nd Street, roughly 150 feet from the proposed bar's entrance, counted as a regular entrance for students even though it's been blocked by construction project for the past six years.

"It's a grandfathered thing," said SLA chairman Dennis Rosen. "It's come down to one thing, as well all knew from the beginning."

Medina and the parents said the school plans to use the gate when the weather warms up.

"Since the repairs are completed and we have used these gates and we plan to continue to use these gates, we have to use them," said parent Patricia O'Donnell, 35, who has had three children attend the school.

"I don't see why a bar down the block should restrict us from using our own property."

The board's decision, if upheld, means that no liquor-serving establishment will ever be able to open in the building, which landlord Croman Realty had been marketing towards high-profit nightlife establishments. The company asked for a steep $35,000-a-month in rent from any prospective tenants.

Boxers had tried to circumvent the 200-foot rule with another nearby school by planning to locate in the portion of the building that would give it a 10th Avenue storefront, instead of on 52nd Street.  The rule does not apply when bars are on a different street than schools.

The establishment's owners, Bob Fluet and Rob Hynds, run the original Boxers in Chelsea and were hoping to expand the franchise into Hell's Kitchen.

Hynds said the bar plans to appeal the decision and maintained that the unique location would give the bar the space and outdoor areas to be competitive.

"We're going to get something in Hell's Kitchen, and it still might be this place," he said. "It doesn't make sense that an entrance that hasn't been open for six years is considered a regular one."

For months, neighbors, elected officials, and Community Board 4 argued that they believe the bar's owners to be good nightlife operators, but said that a bar has no place being so close to the school.

Larry Roberts, a community board member who's helped lead the fight against the bar, said the building would be ideal for almost any other kind of use.

"I don't think anyone in the community would have a problem with a Duane Reade, Starbucks or other chain store going in," he wrote in an email. "I think the owner might look to unload the property now, since, in my opinion, it's lease value is greatly diminished."