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Bakery-Turned-Bar Sparks Complaints in East Village

By Serena Solomon | August 22, 2012 1:05pm

EAST VILLAGE — A bakery-turned-speakeasy has tempers flaring in the East Village.

The alcohol-infused pastry shop Jane's Sweet Buns at 102 St. Mark's Place closed in June and was quickly taken over by the much-hyped beer bar Proletariat, which previously operated with just 10 seats in the rear of the eatery.

But the owner never presented the expansion plan to the local community board as required, local leaders said.

"I have had complaints to the board about what appears to be a bakery turning into a more bar-type establishment," said Community Board 3 district manager Susan Stetzer.

CB3 is upset that Jane's Sweet Buns/Proletariat owner Ravi DeRossi never gave the board a chance to comment on the transformation, which would have allowed the board to request restrictions on noise and operating hours, Stetzer explained.

"It appears that the community board did not get a 30-day notice for the alterations," she said.

DeRossi, who also owns the nearby Cienfuegos and Gin Palace, opened Jane's Sweet Buns in July 2011 amid plenty of hype, serving cakes inspired by classic cocktails such as the Dark and Stormy.

The bakery successfully applied for a beer and wine license a few months later, after presenting plans to pair drinks and sweets, according to a CB3 document.

However, in May of this year, a 10-seat speakeasy called Proletariat appeared in the back of the bakery, according to a report, expanding into the entire space shortly after.

But bar owners who want to change their method of operations are required to come before both the community board and the State Liquor Authority, the agency that has the final say on all liquor license changes.

DeRossi did not immediately return calls and emails for comment. A spokesman for the State Liquor Authority said it is currently unable to comment on the issue.

While DeRossi sent the community board a letter about the changes, the bar owner failed to file the correct State Liquor Authority forms to get the plans on CB3's agenda, Stetzer said.

"We are very concerned about the alterations," Stetzer said.

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh's office has also received complaints about Proletariat from residents, and his staff is beginning to look into the bar's expansion and its liquor license, said Nicole Arrindell, Kavanagh's chief of staff.

"We just want to make sure the process is being followed and the community gets their say," Arrindell said.