HELL’S KITCHEN — Neighbors of a two-story gay bar partly owned by the son of an infamous Hell’s Kitchen mobster say the venue’s loud music and parties are keeping them up all night.
Bottoms Up and Vodka Soda — two attached bars with the same owners on the first and second floors of 315 W. 46th St., between Eighth and Ninth avenues — have a permit that only allows them to play background music and prohibits them from hosting DJs or allowing patrons to dance, according to Community Board 4.
But residents of the surrounding buildings, including the pastor at a Lutheran church across the street, believe the bars are turning their nose at the rules, adding that calls to 311 have accomplished nothing.
“They basically set up a nightclub in a residential area,” said neighbor Eduardo Pirolli, who lives in the building next to the bar, which is partly owned by Mickey Spillane, the son of the gangster of the same name, who also partly owns the eponymous restaurant on Ninth Avenue.
At Board 4's Quality of Life Committee meeting on Monday, Pirolli and other residents living near the bar, which opened in November, described “extremely amplified music” that shakes the walls of their buildings, as well as crowds of patrons whose cigarette smoke wafts into their apartments from the sidewalk.
“You come into our building, our building smells like an open ashtray,” Pirolli said.
“We’re all professionals — we have to function during the day — and these guys are up at night rocking the place,” added Bill David, who lives on the ground floor of Pirolli’s building.
Several residents and a few community board members also pointed out that the bar's Facebook page — which is verified as "authentic" for the establishment — promotes dance parties and DJ events not allowed in the venue.
Co-owners Richie Friendly, Kurt Kalm and Scott Sternick admitted the bars bring in DJs for events, including a recent party, but said they didn’t know who was running the Facebook page and weren’t sure if it was affiliated with the business.
“We make sure people know they can’t dance,” said Kalm, whose plan for a Mexican restaurant in the commercial space at the Clinton Towers apartment complex in the neighborhood has created controversy.
“We showed up here knowing some of the neighbors are unhappy with us being here and there are some issues that need to be addressed,” Friendly added. “We really mean it, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”
Friendly, who also co-owns Mr. Biggs Bar & Grill, DBL and Mickey Spillane’s, claimed the bars' sound-management systems were up to code. He added that he received the landlord’s permission to install soundproofing throughout the hallway of the building in which the venue sits to prevent noise from escaping, and offered to do the same for neighboring buildings — as well as install soundproof windows — if the other landlords agreed.
Committee co-chairman David Pincus also encouraged the owners to perform sound testing in the neighboring apartments, which they agreed to do.
But the bars have caused additional problems for St. Luke’s Lutheran Church across the street.
Along with being regularly awoken by activities at the bar, the church's pastor, Rev. Paul Schmiege, said he and other residents of the parish house have been receiving "obscene" emails accusing St. Luke’s of colluding with the State Liquor Authority to make money from the bars, since nightlife establishments are not normally allowed to operate within 200 feet of schools or places of worship.
St. Luke’s, however, is an exception to that rule because it also houses a small off-Broadway theater, the reverend explained.
“I’m sure [the emails were] written by someone at 3 a.m. who was very upset, understandably so, but as a church we have no control over who receives liquor licenses and who does not,” he said.
The bar’s owners did not directly address Schmiege’s email concerns, nor did they admit to blasting music inside the venue. They noted that along with working to stifle sounds emanating from the bars, they would try to prevent patrons from smoking outside nearby buildings.
“We’ll send [the smokers] to the church,” Friendly joked, drawing a laugh from Schmiege.
The owners and residents agreed to reconvene at next month’s Quality of Life Committee meeting, where they will review the steps the owners have taken to address the complaints.
Until the sound issues are resolved, however, residents say they will be forced to continue enduring sleepless nights.
“It affects everything. We’re angry, to the point that sometimes you think you’re going to lose it and throw something over the window because you don’t get enough sleep,” said neighbor Ramune Ambrozaitis, whose bedroom shares a wall with the bar.
Pirolli said he and other neighbors don’t want the business to fail, but do want their peace restored.
“It doesn’t feel like you’re coming home anymore — it feels like they took that away from us,” he said.