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Locals Oppose Rock 'n' Roll Bar for Kids on Gowanus Waterfront

By Nikhita Venugopal | May 22, 2013 1:41pm | Updated on May 22, 2013 3:25pm
 Brooklyn Bowl owner Peter Shapiro will open the "Rock and Roll Playhouse" with children's workshop but locals are concerned by a possible after 8 p.m. "nightclub" that could be planned for the location.
Rock and Roll Playhouse Set to Open on Bond Street Near Gowanus Canal
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GOWANUS — The Rock and Roll Playhouse is set to bring kids’ music and educational workshops to the neighborhood, but locals say there will be more than just nursery rhymes at the venue.

Owner Peter Shapiro, who also runs Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl, said the focus on the center, located at 280 Bond St., is music classes for babies to 10 years old.

The site is currently under construction, but it's set to open this winter with children’s performances and programs like Beatles for Babies, Reggae for Babies and Little Rockers and World Music for all age groups, according to a letter from the Playhouse team.

“The goal of the Rock and Roll Playhouse is to be a positive element in the community,” said Shapiro, who signed the property’s lease in October 2011. “The idea is a fun place for kids 10 and under.”

The plans were first posted on neighborhood blog Pardon Me For Asking.

The venue will be partnering with Blue Ribbon Restaurants, which will serve food and liquor at the space. After 8 p.m., “following the daytime activities and traditional family dinner hours,” it will host jazz performances and workshops for adults on music, film and the arts, according to a letter from the Playhouse team.

But the Brooklyn Bowl owner was singing a different tune last week, according to locals who live near the proposed space.

Shapiro is said to have told six families who live directly around 280 Bond St., that after 8 p.m., the Playhouse would become a 21 and over club with nightly jazz shows, serving alcohol into the early hours of the morning.

They were also told the space would have a “no-reentry” policy, at a May 14 meeting with Shapiro and the Gowanus residents, most of whom have young children.

“That does not sound like a restaurant,” said Katya Jestin, one of the neighboring locals who has three children under 10. “That sounds like a nightclub.”

Another neighbor of the controversial building, Ari Shapiro, who is not related to Peter Shapiro, said there was no mention of adult programs and workshops at the meeting. He also added that there will be no children-sized toilets in the entire building.

Residents have banded together to form “We Are Gowanus,” a group that has launched a petition to stop the development and has gathered almost 200 of the 5,000 signatures needed. 

But the Playhouse owner said “it would not be accurate to describe it as a night club” adding that there would be no dancing or DJ. And while Shapiro said they “can technically” stay open till 4 a.m., they did not plan to keep the restaurant and bar open that late.

Workshops will run during the day and the space will offer “family friendly shows” before 8 p.m., including musical and theater shows, as well as performances by children participating in their programs, according to the letter.

Shapiro said that they would like to hold jazz performances but they are still in the planning stages for the evening music shows.

Along with the programming, there will also be an outdoor garden, which is currently a parking lot but will hold play equipment from Imagination Playground and Feel Good Designs.

Shapiro said he has asked to work with the community to create an enjoyable neighborhood space. But while a night café or art gallery might win families’ approval, live music and liquor, which will bring crime, noise and traffic, will not, Jestin said.

“It’s not compatible with this part of the community,” she said. “Mr. Shapiro doesn’t live here.”