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Late Night Drinking Crackdown Hurts Business, Says Bar Owner

By Mary Johnson | August 1, 2011 10:41am | Updated on August 1, 2011 11:15am
The owner of two Pig 'n' Whistle locations is looking to open a new pub on East 53rd Street.
The owner of two Pig 'n' Whistle locations is looking to open a new pub on East 53rd Street.
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TURTLE BAY — A tough stance against drunken debauchery has Turtle Bay's community board fighting against 4 a.m. bar closures — much to the dismay of owners of new nightspots.

Ken McCoy, who already owns two Pig ‘n’ Whistle locations in Turtle Bay — one at Third Avenue, between East 55th and 56th streets, and another on Second Avenue, between East 50th and 51st streets — plans to open a new watering hole at 216 E. 53rd St.

He'd like to keep it open until 4 a.m. — the legal closing time — like his other venues, but he faced an uphill battle pleading his case at Community Board 6’s Business Affairs and Street Activities committee meeting Thursday. 

The committee, which said a strip of bars along Second Avenue between East 50th and 54th streets has been particularly controversial for its pub crawls and party crowd, has only approved its most recent liquor license applications if bars agreed to the 2 a.m. closing time.

In particular, committee members cited the recent additions of Vero NYC, open until 2 a.m., and Walle Restaurant & Lounge, which closes at midnight.  Board members expressed concerns over granting McCoy a special exception to what they are trying to turn into the neighborhood norm.

But McCoy said such a restriction would hamper his ability to compete with other neighborhood establishments that remain open until 4 a.m.

Patrons would be reluctant to come into his bar at midnight if they knew they would have to leave at 2 a.m., he said.

“It’s tough to run a business out there,” McCoy, 35, told board members at the meeting. “Every dollar does count."

McCoy did not specify how much revenue he brings in between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. at his other two locations.

McCoy opened the Pig ‘n’ Whistle on Third Avenue in 1998. The location on Second Avenue has been open for four years.  Neither of his bars have been the subject of complaints or citations, he said. 

Committee Vice Chair Steve Dubnoff agreed and praised McCoy's existing pubs, calling them “Class A establishments.” 

“[At] your place, people are familiar with indoor plumbing. Other places, they’re not,” Dubnoff said, suggesting that customers at some other bars relieve themselves in the streets.

Committee Chair Carol Schachter suggested McCoy could close at 2 a.m. for six months and then return to the committee for reconsideration of the 4 a.m. closing time.

McCoy proposed a counter-offer, promising to close at 2 a.m. five nights a week in exchange for a 4 a.m. closing time on Fridays and Saturdays. He would then return in six months to listen to any concerns from neighbors or committee members.

But one resident at the meeting said it should be 2 a.m. or nothing at all.

“I think the neighborhood cannot tolerate another bar,” said Catherine Sigal, who attended the meeting to represent the East Midtown Neighborhood Coalition. “We have too many."

McCoy offered a friendly wager to Sigal.

“I’ll bet you 50 bucks that within six months, you’ll be one of my best customers,” McCoy said.

In the end, negotiations reached an impasse and the committee voted to take no opinion on the liquor license application.

Next, McCoy will have to make his case directly to the State Liquor Authority, which has the final say in whether a license is approved.