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Megaclub Finale Fails to Win License Support

By Serena Solomon | March 12, 2013 7:47am

LOWER EAST SIDE — Megaclub Finale's attempt to add a dance hall on its ground floor failed to win the support of Community Board 3's liquor license committee Monday night.

The committee voted 5-2, with one abstention, against Finale and its restaurant The General, aligning itself with more then a dozen furious residents from surrounding buildings, including many from the club's address at 199 Bowery who recently filed a lawsuit against Finale.

Residents accused Finale, just one of many clubs run by the EMM Group, of a bait and switch — softening the neighborhood by initially pitching itself as a restaurant and bakery before it opened the club last November. 

"There are still complaints of noise, there are still complaints about [traffic] congestion," said committee chairwoman Alexandra Militano, who voted against allowing "the 6,000-square-foot ultra-luxe nightclub" to continue operating its ground floor space as a club, which it has been doing without a license that allows dancing on that level.

The committee's decision is not legally binding and establishments can still gain a license or, as with Finale, an alteration to an already approved license by going directly to New York's State Liquor Authority.

During the committee meeting, The General, which serves small plates with an Asian flavor and baked goods, did gain committee support to operate a sidewalk café.

The original plan for Finale in EMM's 20,000-square-foot space had the dance and DJ area at basement level, but the club opened in November with it on the ground level. 

"We did not do enough research and we apologize for this," said Mark Birnbaum, one of the partners behind EMM, which operates other city hot spots such as SL and Catch in the Meatpacking District.

"The ceiling [in the basement] was too low to do any real significant sound proofing."

Barry Mallin, an attorney for some of the disgruntled residents at 199 Bowery — whose board leased EMM the space — said Birnbaum and EMM had a plan all along to eventually establish a nightclub on the ground floor.

"They are seeking to come in the back door… by changing the stipulations they swore to — to have a restaurant and a bakery with background music on the ground floor," he said. "They never told this group [CB3 or residents] about the 6,000-foot nightclub."

One of Mallin’s clients at 199 Bowery, Robert Schwob, told the board his composer daughter is in the process of moving out due to the late-night and early-morning club sounds reverberating through the building.

"It is just a horrible place to live," said Schwob.

"When people come out [of the club] it is completely disorganized."

More than a dozen people spoke out about sound and traffic congestion at the meeting,  with some even complaining of water leaking into the residents’ personal storage space below.

A letter submitted to the committee from nearby restaurant Congi Bowery accused club patrons of clogging its entrance and stifling business.

Despite the complaints, Birnbaum insisted the entire EMM complex had focused the last four weeks on appeasing neighbors over sound and traffic issues by meeting with them as well as with police from the Fifth Precinct.

EMM went before the CB3 committee last month, but withdrew the application after opposition from neighbors, according to the East Village Local

"We have not had any complaints from residents since we were last here," Birnbaum said.

He produced two local residents, including one from 199 Bowery, who spoke out in support of Finale and The General.

"Now I feel safer walking home at night," said Kelly Stackhouse, a yoga teacher who lives at 200 Bowery. She said the presence of the club illuminates a previously dark part of the Bowery only a block from the Bowery Mission.

"They are a new bar and things have come up and giving them some time [to fix them] is a fair way to go," Stackhouse said.