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High Line Clears Hurdle for Beer and Wine Service

By DNAinfo Staff on April 13, 2011 11:53am

The Chelsea Market Passage, where Friends of the High Line plan to offer one part of their food and beverage service.
The Chelsea Market Passage, where Friends of the High Line plan to offer one part of their food and beverage service.
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Courtesy of Friends of the High Line

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

HELL'S KITCHEN — The High Line's plan to offer cold draughts on hot summer days is one step closer to reality.

Friends of the High Line, the organization that oversees the elevated park, won support Tuesday night for its plan to launch beer and wine service this summer, but not before they heard an array of concerns from Community Board 4's liquor license committee.

The High Line will offer alcohol and food in two areas, above Chelsea Market and at the northern end of a second section of the park that's due to open in late spring.

Because the northern operation, which will sit beneath the park in an industrial area between West 29th and West 30th streets and Tenth Avenue, will serve a capacity of roughly 350 people, it raised the bulk of the concerns among board members.

"I think it's a great amenity, but it's going to get away from you," said committee co-chair Lisa Daglian, raising the specter of a beer garden-like atmosphere emerging.

That's not the intent, however, of the former rail line's management. Founder Joshua David and Director of Food Melina Shannon-DiPietro talked about forging a family-friendly environment.

In order to do so, they'll also offer art installations, films and activities including roller-skating and salsa classes in a shared space with the food and beverage service (offered in partnership with Colicchio and Sons).

David also said that Friends of the High Line is well practiced in the art of crowd control — staffers conduct a head count of park visitors once an hour every day.

Injecting alcohol into the equation, however, would present a new set of challenges, committee co-chair Paul Seres pointed out.

The alcohol service above Chelsea Market is much smaller in scale, serving around 40 at a time. Members asked Friends of the High Line to prevent visitors from taking beverages of any kind outside of the cordoned off area — lest visitors tried to stroll out with beer in the guise of soda.

Before ultimately receiving the committee's support for beverage service near West 30th Street, Friends of the High Line accepted conditions including making visitors over 21 get hand stamps or bracelets to show they're of drinking age.

The park will also increase seating from 200 to 250, in order to reduce the number of people milling around with beers and stemware in hand.

Despite the reservations over a large-scale beer and liquor operation, CB4 chair John Weis praised the High Line for trying to inject some life into the still-desolate neighborhood.

"This isn't what I was envisioning," Weis said. "But I think it's terrific that it's something that will bring people to the northern end."

The next step for Friends of the High Line will be a vote by CB4's full board at the May 4 meeting. The State Liquor Authority will have the final word.