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Hell's Kitchen Gay Bar Gets Creative to Avoid School Ban

By Mathew Katz | September 6, 2011 1:31pm
The building on Tenth Avenue that Boxers wants for its new location.
The building on Tenth Avenue that Boxers wants for its new location.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

HELL'S KITCHEN — When news hit that Boxers NYC, a gay sports bar in Midtown, wanted to open up a second location on a Hell's Kitchen block, opposition formed immediately — largely because the proposed location shares the same block as two schools.

But Boxers' owners have won over some of their former opponents by coming up with a creative solution — splitting the new location in half so the section that serves liquor is technically far enough away from the two nearby schools.

The controversial bar is seeking to open in what's now a derelict building at 776 10th Ave. at 53rd Street, located across the street from the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic school at 456 W. 52nd St., and beside PS 111 and its playground. City regulations ban bars from opening less than 200 feet away from any school.

Under the new plan, the entrance to the bar itself will face out onto 10th Avenue, while an entrance to a non-alcoholic food venue — possibly a taco stand — will face 52nd Street toward the Catholic school, co-owner Bob Fluet said.

"The landlord is subdividing it into two because he knows that this thing would never be able to do a liquor license otherwise," Fluet said, adding that he and his business partner, Rob Hynds, will run both businesses.

After initial outrage from some in the community, the bar's owners reached out to opposition in the neighborhood, and delayed going before Community Board 4's licensing committee so they could speak to locals and make sure the new bar would be a good neighbor.

"We learned through our other location that the more the community knows, the better it is for us," said Fluet. "More than anything, we're hoping to get more feedback."

Fluet hired a consultant to begin the outreach back in June, and his strategy has helped convince some residents to support the venture. An online petition to allow the bar in the Hell's Kitchen space had 430 signatures on Tuesday.

"I honestly didn't know what to think at first," said Christian Baulmon, 33, who lives a block away from the proposed site and said he didn't know about the petition. "But the more I hear about it, the more I think it's just like any other bar."

Susan Oshman, a mother in the area, had originally planned to go to a community board meeting last month to oppose the bar until that meeting was moved to September.

"I just don't want loud noise late at night," she said. "Their other location can get rowdy, I think. But now I've heard they're taking steps to make sure the new place is quieter."

Oshman was unsure if she was supportive of the new bar, but said she was "leaning towards it."

A spokewoman for the Archdiocese of New York, which runs the Catholic school, said the organization is aware of the proposal, and that it is investigating all aspects of it. The Archdiocese has not settled on a position in the matter, she said.

Community Board 4's Business Licenses and Permits Committee is expected to take up Boxers' liquor license application on Sept. 13.