TURTLE BAY — The Turtle Bay bar that tried to make the movie “Footloose” a reality by illegally allowing dancing among its drunken, noisy patrons may be facing its own Hollywood-style happy ending.
Zoning regulations prohibit Copia, on East 53rd Street between First and Second avenues, from allowing patrons to feel the beat.
But residents complained that late-night grooving was rocking their block all the same, drawing the wrong kind of crowd to their quiet, residential street.
Based on that history of bad behavior, Community Board 6 called on the State Liquor Authority to revoke the club’s liquor license back in January.
But now, Copia seems to be working its way back into the community’s good graces.
A new owner, Christopher Falesto, is about to take over, and after several months of negotiations, he has agreed to the stipulations the community has asked for — most notably to put an end to all that troublesome bumping and grinding.
“[Copia has] been nothing but problems and negative resolutions,” said Steve Dubnoff, vice chair of the CB6 committee that reviews liquor license requests, at a meeting last week to vote on Falesto’s request to take over Copia’s liquor license.
“[But] these gentlemen were not involved,” he added. “I think we should give them a chance.”
A sign in the window of Copia now alerts patrons that “dancing is prohibited.” That warning is echoed on Copia’s website, with a disclaimer on the homepage that reads, “There is no dancing allowed at Copia NYC anytime.”
Live DJs will no longer be part of the bar’s entertainment lineup, and a new floor plan submitted to the community board promises to place tables where the dance floor once drew crowds of gyrating patrons.
Dubnoff said the new owner has also agreed to send a representative to the committee’s monthly meetings to address any new or lingering concerns.
The warm reception marked a stark difference from Copia’s last appearance before Community Board 6 in January, when Falesto first submitted his request to take over Copia’s liquor license.
At the time, neighbors and committee members accused the bar of encouraging its dance club reputation, and the meeting echoed scenes from the Kevin Bacon's 1980s film “Footloose,” in which a town bans dancing, decrying it as a gateway to sex and mischief.
“There’s dancing,” said a resident of 310 E. 53rd Street, the building across the street, at the meeting in January. “I have been in there [and been] asked to dance. There’s a dance floor.”
Zoning regulations in the area prohibit the establishment from having a cabaret license — a required document for a dance club — unless it has been grandfathered into old zoning laws.
But back in January, Falesto refused to sign an agreement pledging to ban dancing from the club, an agreement that would have become part of his liquor license. Any stray hip wiggle or head bop could be classified as dancing, he claimed, and he didn't want to jeopardize his license.
Falesto, who has been managing Copia since December, has now changed his tune, and at the meeting on Thursday night, he agreed to the community board’s requests.
“We just want to be good neighbors,” he said after receiving the committee’s positive vote.
Falesto’s attorney, Terry Flynn, said the new no-dancing policies will formally take effect once the State Liquor Authority approves the transfer request and Falesto becomes the bar’s official owner. So it remains to be seen how Copia’s regulars react to the new changes.
But in Yelp reviews posted online in the past few months, the dancing at Copia appears to be a big draw.
“My friends and I had fun here,” one reviewer wrote at the end of April. “We danced like a bunch of maniacs that didn't care and that's all that matters.”