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Village Baha'i Center Shouldn't Stop Pub From Opening Nearby, Backers Say

By Andrea Swalec | January 8, 2013 7:55am

GREENWICH VILLAGE — A proposed jazz club that wants to open near a longtime spiritual center claims state law mandating a minimum distance between bars and religious institutions should not apply because the center is not an official house of worship.

While the SLA requires a 200-foot distance between the bar and the altar, supporters of the new club looking to open on East 11th Street say the potential pub's proximity to a Baha'i center shouldn't kill their plans.

Lawyers for the planned club Analogue, which is negotiating a lease at 41 E. 11th St., say the State Liquor Authority's 200-foot rule, which separates bars from places of worship and schools, should not apply to the New York City Baha'i Center at 53 E. 11th St., just two doors down.

With some exceptions, the state will not issue full liquor licenses to establishments on the same street and within 200 feet of a building used exclusively for worship or as a school, according to state documents.

But Analogue lawyer Joseph R. Levey is working to convince the SLA that the Baha'i Center does not meet this requirement, because it hosts music and theater performances and rents its space as a concert venue.

"The rule with the SLA is not whether there's a church or a school, it's whether there's a building that's used exclusively as that," he said in a recent interview. "We suggest that a lot of things take place there, and it's more of a community center."

The Baha'i Center's leadership, known as the Spiritual Assembly, declined to comment on the bar bid.

The website for the center, which bought its building almost 37 years ago, lists a weekly jazz night, monthly open-mic night and Sunday devotional services.

Local residents' associations urged the SLA to apply the 200-foot rule to the Baha'i Center, which shares the East 11th Street block between University Place and Broadway with shops selling dog accessories and ornate furniture.

"The Baha’i Center is as observant a group as any Christian, Jewish or other nearby faith-based group, and deserve[s] to be treated no differently than those churches nearby … which often hold musical and other events for non-profit in their auditoriums, and have done so for decades," members of the University Place Residents' Association wrote.

The SLA did not respond to inquiries about when a determination about Analogue's eligibility for a full liquor license would be made.

Analogue's application will be reviewed at a Community Board 2 SLA licensing meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua at 154 Sullivan St. The full community board will issue an advisory vote at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 at the Scholastic Building, located at 557 Broadway.