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The Charleston's Sidewalk Cafe Liquor License Denied

By Meredith Hoffman | September 13, 2012 2:53pm

WILLIAMSBURG — Booze-sipping people watchers don't stand a chance on one popular Bedford Avenue patio this fall — or ever — if Williamsburg's Community Board One has its way.

The Charleston — a local mainstay known for its beer-and-free-pizza combos and its colorful mix of hipsters, punks and tourists — was denied its sidewalk cafe liquor license by Community Board One Wednesday night, after board members said the dive bar has operated illegally for years.

"They've never had a sidewalk cafe license," Community Board One's public safety committee chair Tom Burrows said. "They just don't follow the rules."

Burrows said that even if the bar were to obtain a liquor license for a sidewalk cafe, it would still be violating regulations, since the licenses provide for table service that must also include food.

"I've never seen anyone be served food outside," he said, decrying a lack of wait staff. "And a license is for al fresco dining, not al fresco drinking."

Burrows said the owner also operates Metropolitan, Alligator Lounge, and other popular neighborhood watering holes.

"He obviously knows the rules," Burrows said Wednesday.

At the Charleston Thursday, the manager David Slifkin looked crestfallen at news of the board's decision, and he pointed out "no drinking" signs he had recently posted outside to enforce rules while the sidewalk liquor license was pending.

"We police it heavily, we've adhered to the letter of the law," said Slifkin, admitting he had been manager just 10 weeks and that he was unsure how enforcement had gone in the past. "We're prepared to do waitress service only."

Slifkin said the owner was not immediately available to comment, but he said the establishment still hoped to gain approval with a license. The decision must now go to the State Liquor Authority, which makes the ultimate call.

"It's an enormous opportunity," Slifkin said, "to serve beer on Bedford Avenue."