Bushwick Bars Given Midnight Curfew on Sundays by Community Board

By Meredith Hoffman on March 26, 2013 6:35am 

BUSHWICK — The Bushwick community board wants to make sure Sunday is the day of rest — or at least of earlier bedtimes.

Bushwick's Community Board 4 has started a Sunday no-booze-after-midnight policy for businesses vying for liquor licenses in the neighborhood. The board issued the rule to its first batch of watering holes this month, both for new licenses and for existing spots renewing their permits.

"We're asking that everyone close at midnight on Sunday," stated the board's district manager Nadine Whitted.

Whitted did not further explain the decision or immediately answer calls and emails for comment the following week, and the chair of the public safety committee — which created the rule — did not immediately respond to calls and requests for comment.

But board member and local artist Deborah Brown attributed the policy to the dramatic influx of bars in the neighborhood, which has been an issue members have lamented over the past several months.

"Anybody who's walking around these days sees a number of new establishments opening, many to serve the newer community in Bushwick and some are new incarnations of previous bars," said Brown, who said the decision was "probably part of the way the community board is trying to keep a handle on it all."

Community members complained that "nightlife, bars, and liquor stores" were the main problems that came with the recent population growth in Bushwick during another part of the community board's March meeting.

Austin Martinez, a longtime local resident and board member, said he felt the new liquor establishments had punctured the peace on residential blocks.

"I can't go out on my street without seeing one," he said. "I'll go on Wilson Avenue and see all these new liquor stores."

"They're opening up everywhere."

Members of the bar industry said the new rule — which is just an advisory one unless the State Liquor Authority votes to approve it — was a "weird" and arbitrary provision.

And some entrepreneurs said the rule would damage their businesses, since they make most of their sales after midnight.

Jeff Pan, who owns the cafe and bar Skytown, said that even though he opens early in the morning and offers cocktails all day long, he does most of his business in the late-night hours.

"It would affect me significantly since I have a 4 a.m. liquor license," said Pan, owner of the bar by the JMZ Myrtle-Broadway subway station. "The majority of our alcohol sales occur after midnight."

Pan said he could understand that the board's position represented "many residential buildings that don't want to be living near a bar, especially considering Bushwick's exponential growth in the bar industry."

But Pan still said the 12 a.m. curfew was not the wisest way to go — especially if the main problem was noise.

"They'd have a tough time implementing the midnight rule for our location if the argument was protecting the neighborhood from noise from Skytown," he said of his location on Broadway, an already bustling street. "With us being under the elevated JMZ train, it's actually the other way around!"

And Ben Warren, who owns local bars The Bodega and Heavy Woods, said he could understand board members’ concerns, but hoped they didn’t try to "overstep their power."

"I know they’re very concerned about Sundays because they're churchgoing women and they’re worried about noise," said Warren, who has attended several community board meetings for his license requests.

"Bushwick has a lot of residential blocks that are planted between the bars springing up in the neighborhood and I know it's easy to hear a group of people leaving late at night on a Sunday."

But he said that limiting hours after midnight — when his establishment also sells most of his alcohol —  would wound his business.

"It gets imposing when they start trying to close down the hours," Warren said. "Of course as a bar owner it's great to stay open as much and as late as possible."

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