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Cool Pony Liquor License a Lighting Rod for Angry Neighbors

By Sonja Sharp | August 6, 2013 9:14am
 Ariane Ben Eli and Craig Judelman, co-owners of Franklin Avenue's Cool Pony in front of their Crown Heights store.
Ariane Ben Eli and Craig Judelman, co-owners of Franklin Avenue's Cool Pony in front of their Crown Heights store.
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DNAinfo/Sonja Sharp

CROWN HEIGHTS — Hold your horses! 

That's what neighbors told Franklin Avenue thrift store Cool Pony on Monday when owners came before Community Board 8's liquor advisory board hoping to secure a beer and wine license. 

"Why does a thrift shop need a liquor license?" asked neighbor Karen Granville, a nurse who lives across the street from Cool Pony and just above Little Zelda on a drag already chockablock with booze.

"Most of the people I have in my building are working class people with school-age children — I’m concerned about my community and the people who look like me and are trying to make a living and don’t want more noise."

In fact, most community members who came out to complain at Monday's meeting were up in arms over much more than just Cool Pony. Chavelas, Little Zelda, Crown Inn and 739 Franklin — four of the neighborhood's newest hotspots — were objects of ire for neighbors on the block who were quick to lump them together with the Cool Pony license.

"As you’re walking by at night, the congregations are three and four deep. They have no respect for anyone walking by," said neighbor Joyce Peterson. "The weekend, I can go along with it,but everybody sitting out in front of the establishments without any regard for people who even live there, i don't think that’s right." 

It's not just the ne'er-do-wells and the noise that have neighbors irate. 

"The neighborhood has changed dramatically, it’s a very loud block, and maybe most emblematic about this change is the Cool Pony store," said neighbor Simon Folkard, the store's upstairs neighbor.

"When they first opened up I was frankly appalled by their behavior. They were celebrating every single night. It was like they were celebrating that they didn’t have to get up for a job in the morning."

The board agreed, chastising the owners for serving booze at BYOB-style music events before they'd even applied for a liquor license. 

"It looks to us like you were trying to get away with something and now you’re here hoping we won’t notice,"said board member Robert Witherwax. "The last thing we need is people who have never run an establishment trying to run an establishment and adding to the cacophony on Franklin Avenue." 

But owners Ariane Ben Eli and Craig Judelman said the performance space element of their business provides a home for creative performances that otherwise wouldn't have one, and that when it comes to noise, smoke, and snooty patrons, they've been unfairly tarred with the same brush as their neighbors. 

"It’s an issue that needs to be addressed with other businesses — it’s not something that one business is going to be able to address on its own," Ben Eli said.

"This is an area that’s rapidly changing, and no one business can be held responsible."