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Board Says No Liquor License for Nolita Eateries Despite Community Support

 The owner of Little Rascal wants to upgrade his beer-and-wine license to a full on-premise liquor license.
The owner of Little Rascal wants to upgrade his beer-and-wine license to a full on-premise liquor license.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

NOLITA — Two Nolita restaurants failed to win over Community Board 2's liquor license committee Tuesday night, despite an outpouring of support from their respective regulars.

Piacere, an Italian restaurant in the Sohotel on Broome Street, and Little Rascal, a Turkish eatery nearby on Elizabeth Street, want to upgrade their beer-and-wine licenses to be able to serve liquor.

Marco Antonini said his customers at Piacere "want an amaro or a limoncello," and Halil Gundogdu, the owner of Little Rascal, says he "cannot serve the Turkish national drink, which is raki."

Both men told the board they need the upgrade in order to compete with neighboring eateries.

Yves Claude, 72, lives nearby on Mott Street and was one of the regulars who spoke in support of Piacere. He said that to him and other older locals, the restaurant's "like home."

And Cem Kozingolu, who lives nearby in SoHo, was one of several people to praise Piacere for being one of the few neighborhood places that serves food late at night. Piacere is open until 2 a.m. on weeknights and 3 a.m. on weekends.

But it was partly those late hours that put off the committee.

"The reason he was given a beer-and-wine license [was] those hours," said committee member Lois Rakoff. "If he had asked for a full [liquor license] and those hours, we would have denied it."

The boutique hotel housing Piacere also already has four full liquor licenses, according to committee co-chair Carter Booth.

Dozens of people showed up to speak in support of Little Rascal, including Henry Stifel, 52, who uses a wheelchair.

"Being in a chair, I need to go into a controlled environment," Stifel said. "I don't do very well with ambient noise, I'm not a person who goes to a lot of bars.

"I love going to this restaurant. I take my 85-year-old mother."

Stifel was one of many who insisted that Little Rascal is a quiet, low-key place, prompting suspicion from one of the restaurant's two detractors.

"The fact that everyone is saying it's quiet makes me think, 'Why are they all saying it's quiet so quiet?'" said John Ellis, who lives nearby on Kenmare Street and said he'd never eaten at Little Rascal. "It sounds like they're covering up."

Some of the committee members appeared to have had negative experiences with Little Rascal. Robin Goldberg and Josh Frost both accused Gundogdu of being part of the noise problem by hanging out in front of his restaurant at night.

The full board will vote on the resolutions to deny Piacere's and Little Rascal's liquor license upgrades at its meeting next Thursday.