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Champs Diner, Loved by Vegans But Hated by Neighbors, Plans to Move

By Serena Dai | October 3, 2014 3:41pm | Updated on October 6, 2014 8:41am
 Champs Family Bakery, a vegan restaurant at 176 Ainslie St., plans on moving its flagship to a different location.
Champs Family Bakery, a vegan restaurant at 176 Ainslie St., plans on moving its flagship to a different location.
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WILLIAMSBURG — A popular vegan restaurant that residents have long complained is a nuisance to the neighborhood may soon be moving to a new location.

Though popular with vegan foodies, Champs Family Bakery's flagship restaurant at 176 Ainslie St. has been reviled by its residential neighbors in East Williamsburg.

Locals have complained to Community Board 1 that the vegan diner slams its security gates down late at night, causing unnecessary noise. They've also said the restaurant's patrons and their bikes crowd the area.

Since April 2013, seven noise complaints have been made to 311 at the location for banging and pounding.

Champs co-owner Brad Baker approached CB 1's liquor license committee Thursday night prepared for the worst. "As you're going to tell us, you don't like us," he said.

Baker appeared in hopes of gaining the board's approval for a liquor license at a new location at 197 Meserole St., and the owners said they had already gathered about 1,500 signatures of support.

The current Ainslie Street spot, which includes an outdoor cafe, would be turned into a grocery store operated by the same owners, Baker said, hopefully providing a relief to people living on the street.

But SLA board co-chair Thomas Burrows did not want to grant immediate approval, saying that the new location, which is also on a largely residential block, doesn't deserve to inherit the same problems, he said.

"The neighborhood has been complaining about you forever," he said.

The SLA committee's vote is advisory to the full community board, which traditionally follows the committee vote. The full board's vote is advisory to the State Liquor Authority, which makes the final decision.

Burrows moved to postpone the vote until fellow committee member Rob Solano, who knows Champs' future location better, could examine the application.

The application can continue after the owners talk with Solano, Burrows explained.

"And all the Ainslie people will be so happy you're moving," he added with a laugh.

Champs opened in 2010. Since then, it's opened an outpost in Greenpoint and a bakery in Bushwick.

In other notable local restaurant and liquor license news:

► Locals on a largely residential Greenpoint Street balked at a new restaurant and bar's plan to be open 20 hours a day — prompting the spot to agree to shorten its hours.

Husband-and-wife team Dan Sweeney and Justine Russau said they wanted to open Laughing Waters at 364 Leonard St. as a neighborhood spot that could serve coffee in the morning at 8 a.m. and alcohol at night until 4 a.m.

It would offer free Wi-Fi, happy hour and $1 oysters, said Sweeney.

"This is not a $1 beer night place," Russau said.

But locals countered that any restaurant staying open that late would not be appropriate for a residential street across from a park.

"It's excessive," said resident Jina Peperino. "It's only going to be closed four hours a day."

After a lengthy public comment and debate, the SLA committee brokered a deal where the cafe and bar agreed to decrease its hours to close at midnight on Sunday through Wednesdays and 2 a.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays.

Residents, though, left grumbling.

"We don't want to work it out," said Robert Paciullo.

► The former WilliamsBurger spot at at 342 Wythe Ave. will soon be replaced by an Israeli and Middle Eastern restaurant called 12 Chairs Cafe.

► Charlottsville, Va., shop Sweethaus gained committee approval for a liquor license to sell champagne with its cupcakes at a new Williamsburg location. It plans to open at 135 Metropolitan Ave.

► Taqueria Oaxaca got the board's stamp of approval to serve alcohol at its new Williamsburg location at 130 Grand St. The New York eatery already has five locations across the city.