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Community Board to Decide Fate of Boxers

By Mathew Katz | October 5, 2011 7:08am
Bartenders at Boxers NYC dressed up for Superbowl Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011.
Bartenders at Boxers NYC dressed up for Superbowl Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011.
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HELL'S KITCHEN — The controversy over Boxers, a gay sports bar that wants to open in Hell's Kitchen, has raged for months. On Wednesday night, much of it will be settled at the full meeting of Community Board 4.

Much of the dispute is over the bar's proposed location at 776 10th Ave. The building is right up against P.S. 111 and is across the street from Sacred Heart of Jesus School. Opponents say the location is no place for a bar because of its proximity to children.

The Hell's Kitchen Boxers would be the bar's second location. The original Chelsea location, at 37 W. 20th St., offers patrons a gay-friendly sports-bar atmosphere. The new bar would be similar.

Bars typically ask community boards to recommend them to the State Liquor Authority for a liquor license, and Boxers was originally set to come before Communtiy Board 4 Business Licenses and Permits Committee early in the summer.

That meeting was delayed by both the bar's owners, who wanted more time to reach out to the community, and community board officials, who wanted to make sure the community would not be on a summer vacation.

Throughout the summer and into the fall, owners met with community groups and neighbors. They also had staff travel the neighborhood gathering signatures on a petition in favor of the new location.

At the September licensesing committee meeting, the bar's co-owners, Bob Fluet and Robert Hynds, unveiled their design for the bar. They would turn the derelict building currently at the corner of West 52nd Street and 10th Avenue into a two-story bar with a rooftop patio.

They also revealed a plan to get around the SLA's ban on liquor-serving establishments within 200 feet of a school — setting up a liquor-free taco shop on the side of the building facing 52nd Street.

According to Boxers' lawyer, Donald Bernstein, that would make Boxers exempt from the 200-foot rule with regards to Sacred Heart of Jesus School, since it only applies to a school on the same street or avenue as a bar. The entrance to P.S. 111 would be more than 200 feet to the bar.

The preliminary blueprints for the building also blocked off views of the rooftop patio from the school with high, concrete walls. According to the designs, the roof will only open up to 10th Avenue.

At the end of that meeting, the Business Licenses and Permits committee voted to draft a letter recommending the SLA grant Boxers its liquor license — with some caveats. The bar would have to provide security, and the rooftop could not open until 4 p.m. on school days. On weekends and during the summer, the bar could open it earlier.

The bar also agreed to open its main floor at 1 p.m. on school days, though at a heated meeting of the Hell’s Kitchen 50th-51st Street Block Association last week, Fluet and Hynds said they would consider not opening until 4 p.m. on any school day.

In September, Principal Irma Medina of P.S. 111 sent an e-mail to parents, writing that the bar next to the school would be inappropriate.

According to community board members, the landlord of the new bar, Croman Realty, made no secret of only wanting to rent the building to some kind of nightlife establishment. Few but a successful bar would be able to afford the rents Croman has been holding out for.

Medina also referred to a now-defunct promotion that was offered last summer when the bar gave two-for-one drinks to patrons who show off their underwear at the Chelsea location. The bar's owners said the promotion was a failure, and has guaranteed a similar one wouldn't happen at the new Hell's Kitchen location.

Wednesday's full meeting of Community Board 4 is certain to be packed, with both supporters and opponents of the new bar vowing to turn out in large numbers. The community board has the opportunity to vote on whether or not a recommendation will be made to the SLA.

The board's recommendation is nonbinding, but the authority typically listens to a community board when deciding a license application.

The full board meeting happens Wed. Oct. 4 at the Roosevelt Hospital, 1000 10th Ave, at 6:30 p.m.