By Suzanne Ma
EAST VILLAGE — Le Souk, a popular hotspot, has been denied a liquor license, the latest chapter in a decade-long battle between restaurant owners and neighborhood residents.
Notorious for large crowds, loud music and belly dancers, the Avenue B bar has long sparked complaints from residents about the noise and congestion.
Restaurant owners argue that they can't be blamed for the street noise on a thoroughfare where many bars have opened up in the last decade drawing rowdy weekend crowds.
But Christopher Jones, who lives near on East 4th Street, said Le Souk was "the worst" of them all, describing "honking cars", "obnoxious traffic" and "drunk, animal behavior," at Community Board 3's liquor license hearing on Monday night.
"It just bombards your ear drums," Jones said. "Even if we have the windows closed, it comes right through your windows. I put in my ear plugs and close the windows, and turn on the air conditioner on and it's still loud."
Jones and four other area residents spoke out during the meeting, armed with a folder containing letters from community members who echoed their sentiments.
But David Kleiman, who also lives in the East Village, defended Le Souk, saying the popular establishment provides much-needed jobs in a bad economy.
"I don't think that's fair," Kleiman said. "To take a vibrant business when every other store is out of business here, and put people out of work because you don't like it and it's too much noise and you'd rather live in Staten Island."
Le Souk was closed for much of this year after the State Liquor Authority revoked its license following citations of overcrowding. But Le Souk owner Sam Jacob fought the charge in appellate court and, in May, the decision was overturned.
According to court documents, the investigation into overcrowding was "not based upon substantial evidence because it relied on a 'guesstimate' in determining that Le Souk was overcrowded on the night of Jan. 13, 2007."
Le Souk reopened in August.
"I feel that life has been intolerable since Le Souk reopened," said Judy Moy, who lives on East 4th Street between Avenue A and B. When "Le Souk was closed during that period, we were actually able to sleep. Unfortunately since you reopened, there are fist fights and screaming on the block. All sorts of mayhem."
The liquor license committee voted not to renew Jacob's liquor license on Monday night, saying he hasn't done enough to deal with neighborhood opposition. The committee encouraged him to meet privately with residents before the next liquor license hearing in November.
On October 23, three days after Community Board 3's meeting, the State Liquor Authority announced that the New York State Court of Appeals had upheld the cancellation of Le Souk's license.