Cafe Tallulah Needs to Quiet Down to Get OK for Sidewalk Cafe

By Emily Frost on May 15, 2014 2:41pm 

UPPER WEST SIDE — A bistro and lounge is in danger of losing its permit for sidewalk cafe after neighbors complained of raucous late-night noise emanating from the Columbus Avenue spot.

The noise from Café Tallulah, whose bar stays open till 2 a.m. each night, has caused too many sleepless nights for its neighbors due to music and loud customers, as well as a 24-hour rooftop vent, locals said. 

Robert Jee, whose apartment on West 71st Street is separated from Café Tallulah only by a brick wall, said the thump of music and din from the restaurant has plagued his family.

"I will hear conversations and laughing and the bar clanking at all hours of the night," he said.

At a Community Board 7 meeting Wednesday night, the board's business and consumer issues committee used its authority over sidewalk cafe permits as leverage to demand changes at the restaurant before approving the eatery's renewal request for the 40-seat outdoor area.

Committee co-chairs Michele Parker and George Zeppenfeldt-Cestero said owner Greg Hunt must add a limiter to the sound system to cap the music's volume. They stopped short of requiring a sound barrier along the shared wall in deference to Hunt's plea to keep the brick exposed for the sake of ambiance. 

"The reality is I’ve got young staff," Hunt said of the music. "I leave and they crank it up."

The restaurant's rooftop vent is also the source of an inordinate amount of noise, Jee and his wife, Helen, said.

In response, Hunt agreed to add a timer that would turn the vent off automatically, rather than letting it run for 24 hours as it does now. The board also requested he add an enclosure to divert vent noise away from West 71st Street. 

Board members said their approval of his sidewalk cafe depended on Hunt meeting their conditions by the next full board meeting on June 2, when a final decision would be made.

Hunt said he'd comply, adding that as an Upper West Side resident, he has an extra incentive to be a good neighbor. Nontheless, he said the complaints were frustrating.

"I took a space that was empty for seven years. I spent a fortune," he explained. "I created 70 jobs out of thin air. Half of them are minority jobs."

Hunt added that there's been no shortage of flak from the community since he opened. 

"Every time I come [to the board meetings]," he said, "I have someone come here and make it difficult and not very gratifying to open a business on the Upper West Side."

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