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Boxers Bar Vows to Fight for Hell's Kitchen Location

By Mathew Katz | October 12, 2011 7:50am
Boxers co-owners Bob Fluet and Rob Hynds show members of the Hell's Kitchen 50th-51st Street Block Association designs for their new bar on Sept. 29, 2011.
Boxers co-owners Bob Fluet and Rob Hynds show members of the Hell's Kitchen 50th-51st Street Block Association designs for their new bar on Sept. 29, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

HELL'S KITCHEN — Nearly a week after the local community board voted against a liquor license for gay sports bar Boxers' proposed new Hell's Kitchen location, its owners say they're not down for the count just yet.

In a post on the Chelsea bar's Facebook page, co-owner Bob Fluet thanked customers for their support during last week's meeting.

"We, at Boxers, are truly blessed to be a part of such a great community," he wrote. "We will continue the fight and keep everyone posted."

Robert Hynds, Fluet's business partner in the venture, said they plan to keep up their bid for a liquor license, but said "It's got to make financial sense, of course."

Fluet and Hynds have already begun to lease the building at 766 10th Ave., which sits across from the Sacred Heart of Jesus School and next to P.S. 111. Community Board 4 cited the building's proximity to the elementary/middle school in a letter approved last week asking the State Liquor Authority to deny Boxers' liquor license.

By some accounts, the rent being paid by Boxers could be sky-high. At a meeting of the Hell's Kitchen 50th-51st Block Association last month, one community board member said the building owner was asking as much as $35,000 per month, based on a listing he saw online. The community board said the landlord, Croman Realty, kept the building empty for years while searching for a nightlife tenant who could afford the increased rent.

Fluet and Hynds said at that meeting that they had negotiated a different price than the $35,000, though Hynds said they would work with the landlord based on the outcome of the liquor license decision. The State Liquor Authority could still grant the license, though the process will likely take another two months at least.

"We're really not comfortable starting construction on it until that [the license] happens," said Hynds.

The building the bar would open in is currently empty and derelict, and the bar has proposed to both renovate it and add a rooftop patio that would be blocked from view from the school.

At last week's community board meeting, several parents expressed concerns that students could see into the bar while it was operating, even though Boxers' owners pledged not to open until after school was out.

Hynds and other supporters said they felt uncomfortable during the meeting because they sensed the fact that Boxers is a gay bar may have increased fears over its opening.

"That was the implication," Hynds said. "That kids were at greatest risk because there is a gay bar there."

"There's no question there's some phobias and fears over there," he added. "Even if they could see, what would they see? Two guys kissing?"

Most opponents stressed that they would be opposed to any bar in the location due to its proximity to the school. Joe Restuccia, the board member who proposed the motion to ask the State Liquor Authority to deny Boxers’ license, is himself gay.

"I don’t live in Wichita," he said at the meeting. "I live in Hell’s Kitchen on the West Side, and no one gives a damn about anyone being gay."

The community board's letter to the SLA is strictly advisory, though the authority often follows its recommendations. It's unclear how Boxers would convince authorities to grant them a license.

The bar’s owners and lawyer have said for more than a month that the new location would not violate an SLA statute prohibiting bars from being within 200 feet of a school’s entrance, and that legally speaking the bar's proximity to the schools could not be a reason to deny their license.