Bulgarian Bar Mehanata's Owner Unwelcome in Williamsburg

By Meredith Hoffman on April 4, 2012 6:46pm 

WILLIAMSBURG—The owner of a Lower East Side club with sinks decorated as women's posteriors, party buses, and "get naked, get a free shot" promos wants to set up shop on a quiet Williamsburg block—but the neighbors won't have it.

Alex Dimitrov, who owns the booming Bulgarian bar Mehanata on Ludlow Street, was struck down by Community Board 1's liquor license committee Tuesday when he requested a liquor license for Williamsburg Manor on 60 N. 1st St.

Dimitrov said the venue, now an empty warehouse, would include 15-20 rehearsal studios, a performance space, and a public rooftop garden with security guards and no alcohol.

"I'm trying to improve the area," said Dimitrov. "I'm investing in a commercial warehouse so people can benefit."

But a crowd of concerned neighbors claimed the venue, surrounded by residences, would become a rave-like club that would puncture their peace, since Dimitrov's Manhattan bar boasts raucous parties. The residents said the roof garden would be a noisy headache, and claimed Dimitrov had failed to reach out to the community about his plan.

"I've never seen people bond together as they have when hearing about this plan," said Jenice Malecki, who lives with her 3-year-old son across the street from the venue. In just 24 hours, she said she rallied 83 neighbors to sign a petition against Williamsburg Manor.

"Why did the city allow zoning for luxury development if it'd let a rave party venue open on the block in the center of these beautiful residences?" she asked.

Malecki rolled her eyes at Mehanata's website party pics and said a spot owned by Dimitrov was not appropriate in a neighborhood full of children and by Kent Avenue's new high-end apartment towers.

"They have ladies' behinds as sinks," she said, noting a photo. "They have party buses that light up and play incredibly loud music."

Dimitrov, however, defended the sinks as art — "I made them, I'm an artist," he said — and said the "Gypsy Party Buses" were viable transportation that he often brought his children aboard. He said he has never had a noise complaint in all 15 years of business — although Susan Stetzer of the Lower East Side Community Board said there were complaints at Mehanata's opening party — and that his establishment, Williamsburg Manor, would be calmer than his Manhattan spot.

And his lawyer, Marcus Nussbaum, said Williamsburg Manor could not be compared to Mehanata.

"They're completely separate spaces, like night and day," said Nussbaum. "The idea is to start a classy space. This is not going to be a dive bar or a gypsy rave."

Nussbaum said the roof garden would be open to anyone in the community, not just customers, and that security would ensure the space remain quiet. He said there would not be traffic issues on the block because the business had drafted a contract with a car service that would pick up customers, and that a lot nearby would be used to valet park customers' cars. He did not know where the lot was.

The liquor license committee said that the traffic would be an issue and that the neighbors' complaints needed to be respected.

The full board will vote on the license at a meeting later this month and Nussbaum said he and his client have not surrendered.

"We've already leased the space," said Nussbaum. "We're going to keep moving forward."