The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

New York Comedy Club's Bad Behavior No Joke, Say Neighbors

By Mary Johnson | April 16, 2012 7:34am

GRAMERCY — The New York Comedy Club on East 24th Street between Second and Third avenues has left audiences in stitches for years, having played host to legendary comics like Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan.

But the situation outside the club is no joke.

Residents on the block are not laughing about what they say has been a decade-long pattern of bad behavior on the part of the fun-loving establishment, with noisy crowds waiting for show time out in the street leaving neighbors clamoring for quiet.

Last week, those residents received a strong show of support from the members of Community Board 6, who voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling on the State Liquor Authority to revoke the club’s liquor license.

“This place has been a problem for over a decade, and this is our opportunity to turn around and just shut it down,” said Carol Schachter, chair of the board’s committee that reviews liquor license requests, just before the vote last week.

The club has been a thorn in the community board’s side for years. Back in 2008, the board denied the club’s request for a liquor license renewal, but the SLA renewed the club’s license anyway, according to a 2008 article in The New York Times

“We take community concerns into consideration, but we don’t have proof that the place is a nuisance to the community,” SLA spokesman William Crowley told the Times.

The community board again denied the renewal request in 2010. Then, in March of this year, the club was scheduled to appear before the Community Board 6 committee that reviews liquor license requests to again seek approval for its license renewal.

“They’re the reason I have the local precinct on speed dial,” said Mary, a 46-year-old resident of East 24th Street who attended that March meeting but declined to give her last name.

Mary has lived on that stretch of East 24th Street for more than 15 years. She described the masses of people who congregate in front of the club before each show, the shouting and drunken singing that occurs, the people who choose to drink in the lobby of her building when the weather is bad.

And no one from the club, she said, has made a sincere effort to keep the mayhem under control.

“They’ve never been good neighbors," she said.

"Anything to punish them at this point would be awesome,” she added. “It would just be nice to have some place that would be part of the community, that we would want to go to.”

Nicole Paikoff, a real estate agent and a member of the Community Board 6 liquor license committee, also lives on that block and has been documenting the problems emanating from the club for years.

“They basically laugh at the community because they use the outdoor sidewalk as their holding area,” Paikoff said at the meeting.

“I think we should make a motion to revoke, and we should go after this in the strongest way possible.”

The board agreed and will now submit the resolution calling for revocation to the SLA, which holds the ultimate authority over liquor licenses in the state.

Representatives from New York Comedy Club, which also operates a sister venue on West 53rd Street called the Broadway Comedy Club, were notified of the meeting last month, but Al Martin, the club's owner, said he long ago grew tired of attending.

“They have voted against the liquor license being renewed I think for the last four meetings,” Martin said in a phone interview with DNAinfo. “I don’t want to be yelled at for the same resolution.”

Martin said the State Liquor Authority has already approved his liquor license renewal request, and according to the SLA’s website, the new license is valid until 2014.

But Martin said the recent resolution from the community board would likely prompt the SLA to investigate his club — as the agency has done following each of the negative community board resolutions in the past.

“They find nothing wrong,” Martin said of the SLA's multiple investigations.  

“This is a very rampant theme in all of New York City now,” he continued. “It’s very hard to keep neighbors happy. I don’t know what the solution is other than we have security there on Fridays and Saturdays to make sure the lines are OK.”

Martin said the interior of the 72-seat comedy club is too small to hold crowds before a show begins, so patrons must line up outside. He added that those lines, corralled by stanchions and security personnel, crowd the streets for about 15 minutes or so before a show starts, but that the club is an otherwise quiet presence on the block.

“I don’t think there’s anything I can do to make the neighbors happy,” said Martin. “I guess I just deal with it every two years, not knowing if that’s my last two years at the location.”