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Prospective Bar Owners in Gramercy Turned Off by Crackdown on Late-Night Bars

By Mary Johnson | August 26, 2011 2:26pm
Community Board 6 nixed a 4 a.m. liquor license for two entrepreneurs looking to open a new bar on Third Avenue near East 17th Street.
Community Board 6 nixed a 4 a.m. liquor license for two entrepreneurs looking to open a new bar on Third Avenue near East 17th Street.
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DNAinfo/Mary Johnson

GRAMERCY — Two entrepreneurs swallowed their plans for a new bar in Gramercy because of Community Board 6’s harsh stance against 4 a.m. venue closures.

Before purchasing the bar formerly known as Still on Third Avenue between East 17th and East 18th streets, a pair of restaurant-industry veterans came before CB 6's Business Affairs and Street Activities committee seeking an OK for a late-night closing time.

“We came to you first. That’s how important this is,” their attorney, David Korngut, said to the committee.

Jimmy Tuohy, one of the prospective owners, has three bars around New York, including the trendy Tom & Jerry’s on Elizabeth Street, which has been around for 17 years, he said.

Keith Gog, Tuohy’s partner in the venture, has been in the bar and restaurant business for 25 years. He founded the Metropolis Café in Union Square before it became the Blue Water Grill.

The owners emphasized their extensive careers in making their case for a full liquor license that would allow them to serve booze until 4 a.m.

“In 17 years, we’ve never had any problems,” said Tuohy in reference to Tom & Jerry’s.

Tuohy went on to say that the bar they were planning to open would provide a more upscale choice for people in the neighborhood looking to grab a pint or a bite to eat.

But the committee members weren’t swayed.

"It's a bad history in that place," said Carol Schachter, chair of the committee. "Ever since it's become a bar, it's been trouble."

Schachter's fellow committee members agreed.

“That neighborhood is going down fast, and we don’t want the [area in the] 20s and the teens to be like the 50s,” added committee vice chair Steve Dubnoff, who was referring to the high concentration of popular late-night bars in Turtle Bay.

Community Board 6 has been ramping up its fight against a proliferation of bars on the east side of Manhattan. Its members have been adamantly opposed to 4 a.m. closing times and pub crawls, claiming that both are contributing to loud, drunken antics along residential streets.

The Business Affairs and Street Activities committee has been requiring new establishments to prohibit pub crawls and close earlier or face a negative resolution from the committee. The negative resolution has no legal power, but it can influence the State Liquor Authority’s decision about whether to grant licenses.

The entrepreneurs eyeing the Gramercy area were willing to agree to the committee’s request for no pub crawls, but a 2 a.m. closing time requirement proved to be a deal-breaker.

Initially, the prospective owners said they would plead their case directly to the State Liquor Authority. But just a few minutes after leaving the meeting, the businessmen and their attorney returned and informed the committee that they would be withdrawing their application for a liquor license in that location.

A 4 a.m. closing time was the only way to make that location financially viable, the owners said as they left the meeting.

They declined to say if they were looking into other locations for their new establishment. But the spot at Third Avenue near East 17th Street was now off the table.