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Gowanus Shuffleboard Club Wins Community Board Approval

By Leslie Albrecht | September 25, 2012 8:06am

GOWANUS — The shuffleboard kerfuffle is over, and both sides walked away smiling.

Community Board 6 on Monday night approved a liquor license for the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club at 514 Union St., following months of community outcry about how the 17,000 square-foot club could overwhelm a quiet corner of Gowanus with drunken late-night crowds.

To win neighborhood support, Royal Palms agreed to scale back its operations significantly. The club scrapped plans to allow patrons on its rooftop, agreed to close at 12:15 a.m. during the week and 2:15 a.m. on weekends, and slashed its maximum number of customers to 300, rather than the 500 originally proposed. The club's representatives also vowed to keep customers from smoking or lining up outside on the sidewalk.

"Everything will be internalized," said Royal Palms' attorney. "There will be no spillout onto the street."

The concessions won over members of Community Board 6's permits and licenses committee, as well as local residents, some of whom said they worried about the club when they first heard about it, but came to support it after they learned more about the venue.

Co-owners Ashley Albert and Jonathan Schnapp have insisted that the shuffleboard club, the first of its kind in New York, will provide entertainment that kids, parents and seniors alike can enjoy.

Community Board 6 member Paige Bellenbaum agreed, calling the club a "creative" idea.

“As an aging hipster who's come from a different part of town and is raising children in the Carroll Gardens area, this is the kind of thing I want to do as a parent," Bellenbaum said. "I want to be able to go to a community establishment where I can be with other residents from Carroll Gardens, who I guarantee aren't going to be stumbling out [onto the sidewalk.]"

But local residents said their beef wasn't with shuffleboard; their concern was about the size of the venue, which will host live music and serve food from food trucks parked inside the massive space, a former printing plant. Neighbors worried that with only 10 shuffleboard courts, Royal Palms would need to rely on brisk booze sales to turn a profit.

After lengthy debate, the community board's "yes" vote was greeted with thunderous applause, then hugs and handshakes between the shuffleboard club backers and some of the neighbors who once fought against them.

"We're absolutely for them now," said Union Street resident Daniel Reynolds, one of several neighbors who raised concerns about the club. "We want them to be successful. But we'll be watching them. I think they tried really hard. It was was some hard fought negotiations and we hope for the best."

Albert and Schnapp wiped away tears and hugged after the community board's approval, which Albert said came as a surprise.

"I think we were preparing for a no vote," Albert said. "We obviously put in a lot of stipulations that are going to cut into our business, but I think it's worth it to have done it with the community's blessing. The fact that (opponents) came up and shook my hand at the end...is huge."

The community board's approval isn't required for a liquor license; the State Liquor Authority has the final say. Royal Palms Shuffleboard plans to open on April 1, Albert said.

In addition to hipster-pleasing features like food trucks and kitschy cocktails, the club will appeal to the stroller set too. Albert, the lead singer of the kids band The Jimmies, has told neighbors the club will host a monthly "birthday party day" where the shuffleboard courts will be open only to "birthday kids and their families."