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Red Sky Liquor License Delayed By Residents' Complaints

By Jill Colvin | December 1, 2011 5:20pm
Noise from the Red Sky bar/lounge on East 29th Street is a serious problem, neighbors said.
Noise from the Red Sky bar/lounge on East 29th Street is a serious problem, neighbors said.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN EAST — A beloved downtown barman's bid to take over Murray Hill's Red Sky lounge was put on hold Wednesday night, after neighbors complained of noisy, drunk and rowdy patrons who keep them up at night and pelt their balconies with bottles, condoms and raw eggs.

Ronan Downs, the owner of a handful of popular spots on the Financial District's Stone Street, including the Dubliner and the Stone Street Tavern, is hoping to take over Red Sky, a three-story lounge with a rooftop bar on East 29th Street, across from the new Gansevoort Park hotel.

But his efforts were temporarily thwarted Wednesday night after frustrated residents who live in the condo next door told Midtown Community Board 5's liquor license committee that they've had enough.

"The former owner blatantly disregarded anything [bar-goers] did outside," said Dr. Shaun Rodgers, who lives on the neighboring building's 17th floor, and estimated the condo board had received 300 emails from residents voicing complaints this summer alone.

For many, the biggest problem with Red Sky has been noise.

“Because there are taller buildings around the roof, it creates a funnel effect where all the noise goes up that residential building,” said Scott Alling, a public member of the board, who echoed complaints from residents who said they can hear loud music and patrons talking through their walls, even when their windows are closed.

But worse, residents said, is what happens outside the bar, when drunken patrons hang around outside their building, crushing plants, smashing beer bottles, urinating on the street and throwing up in their trees.

“We've given up completely," said one resident, who lives on the fifth floor, and asked that his name not be used. He blamed the bar's owners for taking a "not our problem" attitude as soon as bar-goers walk out the door.

But Jerry and Doris Marksohn, who live on the building’s second floor, said they're terrorized by  bar-goers inside who play games that involve throwing things off the rooftop and onto their balcony, which is directly underneath the bar.

Doris sad she’s found numerous items on her terrace after party nights, including food, cigarettes, cocktail umbrellas, and even condoms.

"We have not been able to use our space because of it," she said, adding that she can’t keep furniture outside, for fear it will catch fire because of flicked cigarette butts.

About a dozen times, she said, the terrace was hit with raw eggs.

"We didn’t appreciate that very much," she said.

John Rodriguez, a concierge at the building, who used to work the overnight shift, said that drunken patrons have marched inside the luxury condo's lobby and caused a ruckus.

"They just walk in. They'll pass out on the couch. They'll be wasted," Rodriguez, 24, said.

Last spring, he said, one intoxicated man went on a rampage, damaging furniture in the lobby.

"We kept asking him to leave. He kept insisting he knew someone. He just kept on going crazy," Rodriguez said. "He threw pillows. He threw chairs."

Another time early in 2010, he said, there was a fight.

"They [his co-workers] had to get physical with the guy because he kept cursing and made a ruckus,” said Rodriguez, who said that as they pushed him out of the building, "He just swung at my co-workers."

He said they didn’t call police.

Downs said he was shocked by the level of frustration and what was going on at the bar.

"I feel badly for the people living here," he told the board.

"We did not know the extent of the trouble. That will not happen under out watch," he vowed, promising that he wants to run Red Sky more like a restaurant than a bar, just like his eateries downtown.

"We're not going to have the same clientele that the old operator had," he said.

But despite his promises, board members said they found it "worrisome" that Downs wasn’t aware of the extent of the problems, and said it would take more than a change in management to address residents' concerns.

"I don’t think we're in the position, given what we’re hearing, to approve this," said Committee Chair Nicholas Athanail, who recommended that Downs hire a sound engineer and consider building a wall along the rooftop's side to protect the Marksohn's balcony below.

"I think you need to come back to use with some solutions,” he said.

Downs agreed to work with residents and asked the board to postpone its vote until next month to give him time to come up with a plan.

The bar has been shuttered for the past two weeks.

Still, Rodriguez, who also frequented the bar after work, said he was a big fan, and said he hopes it doesn’t change the atmosphere too much.

"It’s going to suck because it's not going to be like before. But maybe it's better for the residents here," he said.

Michael Casey, the current owner of the bar, who plans to remain on the lease as a partner in the new project, could not be reached for response.