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Children’s Music School Is Nightclub in Disguise, Locals Say

By Nikhita Venugopal | January 13, 2014 2:24pm
 Renderings for the Rock and Roll Playhouse, a proposed bar and music venue at 280 Bond St., in Gowanus.
Rock and Roll Playhouse
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GOWANUS — Residents are fighting a proposed children's music center they say will also operate as a nightclub and bar, demanding that the city withdraw a permit it gave the venue last year.

The Rock and Roll Playhouse, slated for 280 Bond St., plans to offer music classes for kids as well as evening programs for adults such as educational talks, jazz and theatrical performances. The venue touts itself as a “new concept in family-friendly entertainment,” according to its website.

But residents around the site cried foul last May after learning that the venue, which will be operated by Brooklyn Bowl's Peter Shapiro, would also be a 21-and-over club with nighttime music shows and a bar that would be open until the early hours of the morning, they said.

Blue Ribbon Restaurants will serve food and beverages at the Playhouse, including a "family dinner service," and "full-service beverage program" for "adult guests," according to the Playhouse's website.

"This is the wrong use for the wrong location," said Katya Jestin, a Gowanus resident.

In August 2013, the Department of Buildings issued a permit to allow a theater, eating and drinking establishment and a non-commercial art gallery at the site, according to city records

Locals will appeal that decision at a Board of Standards and Appeals hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

"Advisors, community activists and lawyers encouraged us to appeal this decision based on existing case law and a trove of supporting evidence,” according to an email from We Are Gowanus, a group of residents that are opposing the Playhouse.

Last year, the group sued the Department of Buildings for failing to investigate the venue, claiming the it's a "nightclub in violation of current zoning,” according to reports.

The site currently has "non-conforming use" zoning status — a variance in which a piece of land is considered a legal exception to the current zoning district, according to the DOB.

Opponents say because the site has been empty for two years, it should lose that status and the Playhouse should be shut down.

Amy Striem, executive director of the Playhouse, said she anticipates a positive outcome from the BSA hearing. Regarding complaints from nearby residents, “we continue the dialogue with our immediate neighbors to allay any concerns,” Striem told DNAinfo New York.

The Playhouse team has not set an official opening date but Striem said the venue will open "hopefully as soon as possible." The Department of Buildings did not respond to requests for comment.

The Board of Standards and Appeals will meet Jan. 14 at 10 a.m. in Spector Hall (Bureau of Standards and Appeals) located at 22 Reade St. in Manhattan.