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Central Park West Wine Bar Clears Hurdle, But Opponents Say Fight's Not Over

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — A public relations blitz by some of New York’s top lobbying firms wasn’t enough to kill plans for a wine bar on Central Park West and W. 62nd Street.  

Community Board 7 voted Tuesday night to recommend a liquor license for the wine bar, but put tight restrictions on how it could operate.

No dancing, live music or velvet ropes would be allowed at the venue, which is slated to open in a vacant space on the ground floor of 25 Central Park West.

Opponents of the wine bar said they plan to keep fighting, and added that their next step may be to take the matter to court.

“We’re not done by a long shot,” said Paul Millman, president of the condo board at 25 Central Park West, where a two-bedroom apartment is on the market for $4.95 million.

Millman said he “wouldn’t rule out” filing a lawsuit to stop the wine bar. He said he’s worried the late-night venue will bring drunken crowds to his quiet block.

Millman and others opposed to the wine bar have already devoted considerable resources to their fight.   

Residents at 25 Central Park West and its next-door neighbor 15 Central Park West — a luxury high-rise that’s reportedly the home of Alex Rodriguez, Sting and Denzel Washington — hired high-powered lobbyists to sway the community board and other officials. Community Board 7 members said they were mailed “impressive” packets of research opposing the wine bar.

But the slick mailers weren’t enough, apparently.

Community board member Linda Alexander called neighbors’ concerns “much ado about nothing.”

“I don’t think that this kind of establishment is going to attract the wild crowds, the limousines,” Alexander said. “It’s never going to attract people away from the Bowery Hotel.” Alexander said the bar could be a “marvelous amenity” where "middle-aged" customers could kick back in a quiet setting.

Residents fighting the wine bar have argued it could become a late-night hot spot that might attract drug dealers, a celebrity clientele and paparazzi.

The wine bar’s managing partner, Greg Hunt, insisted Tuesday that’s the last thing he wants to bring to the neighborhood. He says he wants to open a classy establishment where people can enjoy a glass of wine while they listen to Billie Holiday and gaze out at Central Park.

Hunt, 52, described himself as a third-generation Upper West Sider who has lived a few blocks away from the wine bar site for 14 years. He said his two young daughters attend P.S. 9, and he brought his parents with him to the Tuesday’s meeting.

Hunt said that other ideas floated for the vacant space at 25 Central Park West, which last held a Gristedes, include a roller blade store and a nail salon.

“I would respectfully submit to the board that a gorgeous, wood-paneled art deco wine bar and café would be more appropriate for our neighborhood than a nail salon,” Hunt said.

Hunt said he was “pleased” with Tuesday’s vote recommending the liquor license.

He said he plans to work with 25 Central Park West residents to make his wine bar plan easier to swallow.

Hunt agreed to follow several conditions in exchange for the community board’s support, including an earlier closing time than he originally wanted.

Hunt now says he’ll close the bar at 12:30 a.m. Sunday through Tuesday and 1:30 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday, shaving a half-hour off of the closing times originally submitted.

He also agreed to hire an acoustical engineer to soundproof the wine bar, and offered to pay for new soundproof windows for the second and third floor tenants at 25 Central Park West.

“I want to work with 25 Central Park West, I really do,” Hunt said after Tuesday's vote.

The community board’s vote is only the first of many hurdles Hunt must clear. The State Liquor Authority still must approve the liquor license, and the venue will need permits from the city's building department.

Both sides have hired land use attorneys, and a legal fight is brewing over whether zoning law allows a bar in the space.