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Push for Earlier Closing Hours Scares Off Potential Bar Owners in Brooklyn

By Sonja Sharp | April 10, 2013 7:02am
 A recent move by Brooklyn's Community Board 8 to bring bars to heel is putting off potential proprieters.
A recent move by Brooklyn's Community Board 8 to bring bars to heel is putting off potential proprieters.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Successful Park Slope bar owner Matthew Kimmett was all set to sign the lease that would have expanded his brand of neighborhood pub to Prospect Heights.

But those plans hit a snag when he and his team got word that the community board would only support their liquor license application if they agreed to close by midnight on weekdays — hours earlier than the bar they would be replacing on Washington Avenue that was also their closest competitor on the busy nightlife strip. 

"We cannot operate within those reduced hours," Kimmett told Community Board 8's SLA advisory committee at its April 1 meeting. "I guess the nicest way to say no would be to withdraw our application."

Like other up-and-coming neighborhoods across the borough, Prospect Heights and northern Crown Heights have seen an explosion of liquor license applications in recent years, abetted by an increasingly robust — and noisy — nightlife scene. 

"We are dealing with a series of businesses that are overlapping concerns for the community," explained board member Atim Oton. "This community is primarily residential. It now has over 100 liquor licenses. We have to balance your needs with the community needs."

Kimmett isn't the first to run up against CB8's new enthusiasm for early-bird hours. Catfish, a Cajun-style bar and restaurant that opened on Bedford Avenue in Crown Heights this winter, rejected the board's request to shorten the hours on its liquor license application and was hit with a Cinderella curfew when it appeared before the SLA. 

"The committee had offered later hours of 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., which the owners refused at our committee meeting," Otom said of the bar. "The block association wanted these reduced hours ... and SLA listened to the block association."

CB8 isn't alone in its quest to bring rowdy new noisemakers to heel. Bushwick's CB4 has started requiring new applicants to close by midnight on Sundays, and community members successfully lobbied to force the Barclay's Center to stop selling booze by 1 a.m.

For establishments like Catfish with their hearts set on Central Brooklyn, shorter hours are just the price of doing business. But Kimmett and his cohort won't likely be the last to balk.

"When presented with limited hours, you're reducing your gross income 10 to 20 percent," Kimmett said. "I own Freddy's Bar in Park Slope, which is open until 4 a.m. seven days a week,"