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Chicano Eatery and Art Gallery Gets 2nd Liquor License Denial

By Allegra Hobbs | August 23, 2016 5:23pm
 Cholo Noir is a Chicano eatery offering California-style Mexican barbecue, cocktails, and gallery space for local Latin artists.
Cholo Noir is a Chicano eatery offering California-style Mexican barbecue, cocktails, and gallery space for local Latin artists.
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Cholo Noir/Facebook

EAST VILLAGE — A Chicano restaurant and art gallery that secured a competitive start-up grant to launch has been shot down for the second time in its quest to secure a liquor license.

Community Board’s 3’s State Liquor Authority Subcommittee on Monday for the second time voted to deny a liquor license for Cholo Noir, a west-coast Mexican barbecue joint that would also showcase the work of local Latino artists, arguing the community could not afford another liquor-slinging establishment in an already booze-soaked area.

If the State Liquor Authority decides to uphold the subcommittee’s recommendation, said the owner, the business may have to prematurely shutter without the revenue from cocktail sales.

“We won’t be able to open, and there will be thousands of dollars lost,” said Leonard Camarillo, who operated Mexican eatery Florencia 13 in the West Village for more than a decade. 

“It’s been very hard,” he added.

Cholo Noir first appeared before Community Board 3’s State Liquor Authority Subcommittee in June to request a full liquor license for its space at 503 E. Sixth St. The subcommittee at the time recommended to deny the license, stating there were not enough community benefits to warrant yet another license in a neighborhood already overrun with nightlife.

When the operators came back Monday to re-pitch the plan, boasting a longer list of signatures in support of the operation — plus a 2014 first-place grant from the New York Public Library’s New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition — the subcommittee’s position had not changed.

The storefront falls on a section of Sixth Street between Avenues A and B that is largely residential, argued subcommittee chair Alex Militano, while 25 booze-serving establishments sit within 500 feet of the site — meaning the operators must demonstrate a community benefit in order to justify yet another liquor license.

And while the concept of a Latin art gallery with Chicano cuisine may be “lovely,” said Militano, it’s not enough to win over a community drowning in quality of life complaints stemming from already-licensed establishments.

“If you want to be adopted by this community, you can’t come in with blinders on and not have an idea about the current conditions,” said subcommittee chair Alex Militano, noting the area has historically had a high concentration of 311 complaints.

The site had been a gym before a Vietnamese eatery briefly took over the space in 2015, but shuttered after five months in business. The space was not fitted with a liquor license, SLA records show.

Camarillo has already broken ground at the site and hopes to open in October if granted a liquor license.

Camarillo says his team will take its case directly to the State Liquor Authority in hopes the agency rules against the board’s recommendation. Ultimately, the board's word is advisory, and the SLA will make the final decision.