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Boxers Bar Owners to Face SLA Over Liquor License

By Mathew Katz | November 28, 2011 11:32am
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 — It's make-or-break time for Boxers.

Owners of the gay sports bar who want to open a controversial Hell's Kitchen location will go before officials from the State Liquor Authority on Tuesday. In October, Community Board 4 voted to ask the authority to deny a liquor license to the bar at 766 10th Ave. because it would be next to a schoolyard and across from a Catholic school.

For months, Boxers' owners, Bob Fluet and Robert Hynds, have gone before community groups, block associations, and the community board to argue that the location would be a perfect one for their business. The pair already have a successful Boxers location in Chelsea at 37 W. 20th St.

Tuesday's hearing before the SLA would be the first time the bar will actually meet with the organization that has the authority to grant or deny their application for a liquor license. The meeting, known as a 500-foot hearing, will take place at 11 a.m. in the board room at the Harlem Center Tower Office Building, at 317 Lenox Ave. 

The hearing is automatically triggered when a new liquor-serving location wants to open in an area where there are already three or more licensed locations in a 500-foot radius. It's likely to be the last public meeting before the authority decides Boxers' fate.

In order for Boxers' application to move forward, its owners must successfully convince the SLA that granting the bar a license would be in the public's interest — though they'll likely run into opposition from the same community members who showed up in force at October's meeting.

"It is extremely important that as many of us attend as possible," wrote Steve Belida, co-chair of the West 50th-51st Street Block Association, in an email to association members notifying them of the meeting. "The second hand smoke that will be generated around this school yard will be harmful to these children."

Boxers' owners and their lawyer, Donald Bernstein, have repeatedly argued that the bar's proximity to the two schools cannot be a reason to deny its liquor license, since it does not violate the SLA's rule prohibiting a bar within 200 feet of and on the same street as a school. 

The bar is more than 200 feet from the main entrance to P.S. 111, and its owner plans to divide up the building and establish a taco shop on the side facing Sacred Heart of Jesus School on West 52nd St., making it exempt from the rule.

In the past, several liquor licenses that Community Board 4 asked the SLA to deny have been granted. If Boxers' license manages to move past Tuesday's committee, it will pass one of the last major obstacles facing it, and will likely be granted a license by the SLA.

The 500-foot hearing will be at 11 a.m. on Nov. 29 in the 5th-floor boardroom of the Harlem Center Tower Office Building, 317 Lenox Ave.