WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Residents who live near South Beach, a proposed restaurant and bar in the heart of Washington Heights, said they were stunned that a community board committee recommended a liquor license for the multi-level, 30,000-square-foot eatery.
Some neighbors complained that the huge restaurant would overwhelm their already hectic street.
"This place is already crazy at night," Washington Heights resident Ramon Duarte said in Spanish. "Restaurants are wonderful, but not something this size."
Despite concerns about the establishment’s dimensions, Community Board 12’s economic development committee voted to recommend that South Beach, at 1390 St. Nicholas Ave., at W. 180th St., be awarded a liquor license.
"I think it could raise the tenor of the corner a bit,” said committee member Edith Prentiss. "The people going there are not the guys who are currently hanging out on that corner."
The measure cleared the committee unanimously, but other community board members said they have concerns.
"I think it’s too large for that area," said CB12 member Richard Lewis, who does not sit on the economic committee, but attended the meeting. "It’s big. It’s huge. Nothing like that exists up here."
Police officials said they have no objections to the new club. The restaurant would be located just south of an NYPD’s Operation Impact Zone, an initiative that places officers in high-crime areas to quell trouble. The zone currently stretches from W. 181st St. to W. 192nd, east of Broadway to Amsterdam Avenue.
Restaurant owner Felix Cabrera, who also owns Casa de Mofongo House at 1447 St. Nicholas Ave., where a bouncer was stabbed to death in 2009, said he has a full security plan in place. It will include 13 security guards, who will be on the same walkie-talkie system as the seven bouncers at Casa de Mofongo House.
He also said that he had leased a parking garage for 31 years on Audubon Avenue, between 179th and 180th streets, in order to offer patrons valet parking.
Not all neighbors are opposed to South Beach.
Michael Diaz, a CB12 member and resident of the Bridge Apartments, which straddle the end of the George Washington Bridge and are located one block south of the proposed restaurant and bar, said he thought it could help the neighborhood.
"This could have a domino effect and improve the area," he said. "It could be a positive spin."
CB12’s full board will vote on the resolution to approve the liquor license during its general meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22 at the United Palace Cathedral Chapel, 4140 Broadway at West 176th St.
The community board's vote is advisory. The State Liquor Authority will make the final decision about the license.