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9th Ave. Gay Bar Gets OK For Live Piano Music Despite Continued Protests

By Maya Rajamani | January 6, 2017 3:38pm | Updated on January 9, 2017 8:54am
 Rise bar at 859 Ninth Ave., near West 56th Street.
Rise bar at 859 Ninth Ave., near West 56th Street.
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani

HELL’S KITCHEN — Local officials have thrown their support behind a Ninth Avenue gay bar seeking permission to host live piano nights, despite a group of neighbors’ last-ditch effort to persuade them otherwise.

Twenty-four members of Community Board 4 on Wednesday voted in favor of Rise Bar’s application to change the method of operation stipulated on its liquor license, overriding the votes of 10 members who opposed it.

While the bar’s detractors have claimed it’s a noisy “nightclub” that misrepresented itself as a quiet lounge when it first applied for a liquor license, its supporters have refuted that characterization, arguing it’s a low-key alternative to clubs like Industry and Therapy for members of the gay community.

After hearing from both sides Wednesday evening, board member Bruce MacAffer said he felt the bar had been unduly “put through the ringer.”

“[Rise Bar is] a nice place — it’s not the horror show a lot of people have described,” he said. “The music they’re talking about isn’t really going to incrementally add to noise in the community.”

A few board members expressed concerns about the bar’s “incremental requests” to tweak its methods of operation, maintaining the bar had pulled a “bait-and-switch.”

“Each… incremental request is reasonable, within the context of the request,” board member Burt Lazarin said. “If it is a different animal than what was originally proposed, I think we have to recognize that.”

Board member Lee Compton, however, said he felt it was “essentially impossible for a small business, or any business, to understand at the beginning of their life what they are going to be.”

“...[A]s long as we have the opportunity to review the application and say, ‘Does this make sense for the business and the community?’ then I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a business to evolve,” he said.

The State Liquor Authority will make the final say on the matter.