UPPER WEST SIDE — Community leaders scarred by years of alleged noise and disturbances by an old neighborhood bar shot down a bid by the restaurateur taking over the space to keep the spot open daily till 4 a.m.
Lawrence Bellone made the case for his new venture, Tessa — slated to open where the troublesome Time Out bar was located until 2008 — in front of a packed room at Community Board 7's business and consumer issues meeting Wednesday night. He was seeking approval for a liquor license, but many community members pushed back against his proposed late closing hours and the threat of another noisy, rowdy bar scene in the area.
"The hours inevitably come back to haunt the community board and the community when they go until 4 or 5 [a.m.]," committee co-chair George Zeppenfeldt-Cestero. "4:00 is pushing the envelope.
"There’s no other restaurant that’s open until 4 a.m. on Amsterdam," he added.
Time Out closed in 2008, but the vacant space is still near P.S. 87, the Jewish Community Center, and in a neighborhood concerned residents characterized as "sedate," "residential" and full of "working families and children." Neighbors said the bar left its back doors and windows open, encouraging workers and smokers to spill out into the back courtyard where noise filtered up to adjoining apartments.
"Our block was plagued," said a resident from a nearby building on Amsterdam Ave. who submitted a petition from the building calling for no use of any outdoor space. "The noise, the smoke."
Neighbor Tom McCracken said the restaurant was inheriting "bad karma" and that "building to code and building sound proof is very different."
Bellone, however, said his place would be nothing like Time Out.
"There was noise, there was drugs, there was underage drinking," Bellone, who lives on the Upper West Side, said of Time Out's tenure. "If we were them, I wouldn’t approve us either."
Bellone described his restaurant as "high-end" with Italian influences and a top chef trained at well-renowned restaurant Daniel. He was also seeking the spillover crowd from events at the nearby Beacon Theater.
"We’re not looking for a rowdy crowd, but there are high end events [at the Beacon], like Sting’s birthday and I would have loved them to come to our restaurant," Bellone said.
The board remained unconvinced. In the end, Bellone conceded to stay open until 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and only stay open until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
The business and consumer issues committee unanimously approved the restaurant liquor license application. Bellone and his business partners will now seek the approval of the full board and then of the New York State Liquor Authority.
Bellone tried to mollify residents' concerns. Tessa was converting the back courtyard into an enclosed space to fit extra diners, he said, and agreed to sound proof as much as possible and would make sure the restaurant met the noise levels set by New York City's Environmental Protection agency.
At least one of the board members believed Tessa wouldn't follow in Time Out's footsteps.
"It’s a high priced restaurant," said co-chair Michele Parker. "It’s a different crowd."