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Chelsea Nightclub Imperial Gets Liquor License from a Reluctant Community Board

By Serena Solomon | November 16, 2009 9:11am
Out the front of the Imperial nightclub.
Out the front of the Imperial nightclub.
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Serena Solomon/DNAinfo

By Serena Solomon

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CHELSEA — With all the alleged fights, vomit and late-night yelling, Community Board 5 would love to shut down Chelsea nightspot Imperial, rather than renew the club's liquor license.

But that job falls to the State Liquor Authority.

So, when an advisory opinion vote about whether the SLA should renew the 19th Street bar's license came up last week, the board held its nose and approved it, but with stipulations that they hope might curtail Imperial's reputed bad behavior.

"If we deny the license, the SLA would most likely overrule and renew the license anyway," Nicholas Athanail, chair of the sub-committee in charge of processing liquor licenses, told the board. "This way at least we have got leverage."

Looking down West 19th Street, where the Imperial nightclub is.
Looking down West 19th Street, where the Imperial nightclub is.
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Serena Solomon/DNAinfo

Athanail  presented three pages of stipulations that would help lesson the impact of the Imperial on surrounding residents.

For one, the bar should always have at least 12 security guards on hand. For another, a "smoking pen" would control smokers outside the club. Imperial would also be required to meet regularly with neighbors and provide a 24-hour hotline for complaints.

In six months, the stipulations would be reassessed.

"When we talk about the filth, noise and intimidation, every person that lives here has felt those three things," said Laina Matos Kerner, one of roughly a dozen residents who testified about troubles with the bar.

Matos Kerner told of one incident on a morning when she left her home early for work. It was raining, and when she opened the door to her lobby, five men from the Imperial rushed past her to escape the downpour. Police had to be called in to remove them, she said.

Matos Kerner added that her 3-year-old daughter is often woken up by noise from the club.

After almost an hour of discussion, CB5 voted 32 to 11 to renew the license with the stipulations. 

Imperial's attorney Bruno V. Gioffre Jr., said the stipulations the club and the board agreed on went into effect immediately. If the bar violates the pact, the board could get the bar into trouble with the SLA.

"The club intends to adhere to all the stipulations they agreed to," Gioffre said. "From today onwards they have to adhere to the stipulation then we will revisit them in six months."