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Queens CB2 Turns Down Alobar's Bid for Backyard Seating

 The board said its decision is in response to neighbors who were concerned about noise.
Alobar Wants Backyard Seating
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HUNTERS POINT — Queens Community Board 2 is saying no to a popular Long Island City restaurant's bid for outdoor backyard seating, citing potential noise problems and concerns from neighbors who live near the space.

Alobar, at 46-42 Vernon Blvd., can't seat customers in its 18-by-20-foot rear yard, a stipulation requested by CB2 two years ago as a condition for a liquor license recommendation.

Owner Jeff Blath went before the board's city service committee last week — armed with nearly 500 signatures in support of his cause — but said he was told the committee would not recommend in his favor because of a board rule against rear yard restaurant spaces.

"It's not taking into account what kind of an owner I am. I'm not an absentee owner," said Blath.

He said he originally built 11-foot-walls around the outdoor patio and put awnings over it to help block out noise, and recently hired a sound engineer at the request of the board to see what other modifications could be made to make the space even quieter.

He also said he was willing to cut back the hours the yard was used to seat guests, opening it only for lunch instead of dinner.

"I would have said yes to any hours that they'd given me," Blath said.

But CB2 chair Joe Conley said the board's decision was in line with the desires of neighbors who live close to the restaurant.

"The people that live around it, immediately around it, resoundingly said that they didn’t want it," Conley said, saying the board had received "many opposition e-mails."

"We have to listen to, respect and respond to the local people," he said.

Conley said the use of rear yards has caused conflicts between residents and neighborhood restaurants in the district for decades, and that backyard seating is more intrusive to neighbors than a typical sidewalk cafe space in front of a restaurant.

Alobar's front sidewalk does not have the space required for outdoor seating.

"When you have a sidewalk cafe you don’t have the same rear yard issues," Conley said, adding that the board has asked other eateries to sign stipulations promising no rear yard seating the same way it did with Alobar.

"We've had many new applicants come before us, and [to] each one of them, we've pointed out the past complaints and histories with rear yards," he said.

But Blath said Alobar has been a good neighbor for the last two years, and is trying to be an asset for the community.

"Alobar wants to be the place that you say, 'That’s the neighborhood spot,'" Blath said, adding that outdoor seating would help them do that. He said they will likely appeal the board's rear yard ban directly with the State Liquor Authority.

"We're getting killed as far as outdoor seating goes. People walk up to the restaurant and they say, 'Oh, you don't have outdoor seating? Then we'll walk down the street and get a burger,'" he said.

"That happens on a nice day over and over, and it adds up to quite a bit of revenue when you think about the whole course of the summer."