SOUTH WILLIAMSBURG — Residents were shocked to find out that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams had thrown his support behind a bid to allow an event space in the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank to serve alcohol, after hundreds of neighbors repeatedly opposed it.
Weylin B. Seymour, the event space at 175 Broadway, approached Community Board 1 twice in 2013 to get its blessing for a liquor license, but the board, several elected officials and some 400 residents petitioned against it.
And when the venue finally submitted its application to the State Liquor Authority in November last year, residents protested again — saying the owners have yet to to come up with solutions to their concerns about parking, traffic congestion and crowd noise issues.
Now, just weeks before an April 21 SLA hearing to vote on the license, locals have discovered Adams sent a letter to the SLA last November in support of granting the license — a vote that goes against hundreds of locals' wishes, residents said.
Longtime community board member Simon Weiser said it’s "upsetting" that Adams would advocate against locals.
“To vote against the community, it’s a big mistake,” said Simon Weiser, a longtime member of Community Board 1. “We represent the people. It’s against the people, it’s against the residents. He’s upsetting the whole community."
In the Nov. 26 letter, Adams said the operators had proven it is "what every business should inspire to be," by boosting the local economy and completing a meticulous restoration of the landmarked building.
The company spent $18.5 million restoring the building over the past couple of years, winning awards for its work, including the Tony Goldman award from The National Trust for Historic Preservation.
"The passion and vision of the Weylin B. Seymour's team in restoring a part of our history is commendable and will serve to add to the continued economic vitality of this community," Adams wrote.
"The work in restoring this grand building should indicate what we can expect from the operators...and I look forward to them helping us move forward as One Brooklyn."
Residents first became aware of the letter after State Sen. Daniel Squadron's office sent a copy to a member of the Lower Broadway Block Association a couple of weeks ago when it approached the elected official over the liquor license issue.
The SLA hearing to vote on the license was supposed to happen last month, but the agency decided to postpone it until April 21 because it didn't feel the operators and the community had done "an adequate job of communicating with one another," according to a video of the March hearing published on the SLA's website.
Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna is hosting a public meeting the day before the vote on April 20 with Community Board 1's executive committee, the board's SLA committee and Carlos Perez San Martin, the owner of Weylin B. Seymour, specifically to discuss the liquor license.
Liquor licenses should only be denied when there is a risk of violence or criminal activity or if the license doesn't make sense for the area, Adams' office wrote in a statement.
Weylin B. Seymour has made efforts to make the guest experience "flawless," which includes making sure traffic flows smoothly after major events, Perez San Martin said in a statement.
Shuttle buses are used for larger events, but most events have about 300 guests, while the banquet hall can legally hold up to 1,300, he said.
"Having proven its ability to operate in a manner consistent with its high aspirations, Weylin B. Seymour’s is applying for a liquor license," he said in a statement.
Since Weylin B. Seymour opened in 2014, the SLA has granted caterers temporary permits to served alcohol for one day, the SLA said.
The community's vote is advisory to the State Liquor Authority, which makes the final decision. The venue falls under the "500 foot rule," where new liquor licenses must prove community need due to the number of other liquor licenses in the area.
The community's main complaint is that the venue's operators are attempting to get the permit without addressing the concerns of the residents, said Trev Huxley, president of the Lower Broadway Block Association, which represents residents of Broadway in South Williamsburg.
"What they've done instead is they've come back, and they've talked to the Brooklyn Borough President. They are basically trying to force the community board," Huxley said.