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Boxers Owner May Scrap Pub Plan in 'Neighborhood Where We're Not Wanted'

By Maya Rajamani | April 20, 2017 11:48am
 A flier posted near the proposed 19th and 9th space opposing its liquor license application.
A flier posted near the proposed 19th and 9th space opposing its liquor license application.
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani

CHELSEA — The owner of a pair of popular gay sports bars may withdraw his application for a pub with a roof deck on Ninth Avenue amid vocal community opposition to his plan.

More than 60 Chelsea residents packed Community Board 4’s Business Licenses and Permits committee meeting Wednesday evening to protest Boxers owner Bob Fluet’s plans to open a “contemporary pub” called 19th and 9th in a vacant space at 148 Ninth Ave., at the corner of West 19th Street.

Prior to the public session, Fluet’s attorney attempted to assuage neighbors' concerns, ranging from the noise that could emanate from the roof deck to the reputation of the operator.

Both Boxers outposts have drawn quality-of-life complaints from their neighbors in the past.

 The site of the proposed pub, at West 19th Street and Ninth Avenue
The site of the proposed pub, at West 19th Street and Ninth Avenue
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani

“I first want to tell you what it is not going to be, because there is either a misunderstanding or misrepresentation in the community,” attorney Donald Bernstein said. “Boxers is not coming to 19th [Street] and Ninth [Avenue].”

The proposed venue would be a food-focused establishment where patrons can enjoy dinner, drinks and jazz music, or a weekend brunch on the roof, Fluet explained.

“I’m trying to find something that really would fit in the neighborhood, that people would enjoy,” he added. “This is not a nightclub — this is not a bar.”

But the more than 30 residents who spoke in opposition at the meeting were unmoved by the pair’s presentation.

A rooftop dining space would be an “inappropriate intrusion” into a “fairly quiet stretch of Ninth Avenue,” West 400 Block Association president Allen Oster said.

“If you visit various rooftop venues in the city, there’s a crowd outside, the sidewalks are always crowded, people are trying to get in,” he noted.

The space, which doesn’t have an existing liquor license, was previously home to a veterinary clinic and an art gallery, several neighbors said.

“Bring us a laundromat, bring us a bodega, bring us a hardware store. [The proposed venue] is just going to be too loud for everyone," said a Ninth Avenue resident named Missy.

“You say it’s going to be mellow, it’s going to be a restaurant,” a West 20th Street resident named David added. “Frankly, it looks like a bar, it smells like a bar, it sounds like a bar.”

Bernstein — who successfully lobbied on behalf of another Hell's Kitchen bar seeking the board’s support for a controversial 4 a.m. closing time last year — said he and Fluet had heard attendees’ concerns “loud and clear.”

“I’ve been doing this a long time and I have to give these people credit,” the lawyer said. “I have never seen, frankly, so many people come out opposing an application.

“It is possible it will be withdrawn,” he added.

The committee tabled its planned vote on the application, and Fluet plans to “regroup and decide how to move forward,” he told attendees.

“I really did foresee a really nice community restaurant [and] bar that had a couple levels, and a roof deck area, for the community,” he said. “I don’t want to be in a neighborhood where we’re not wanted.”

On Wednesday morning, he told DNAinfo New York he hadn’t made any decisions about the application yet.

Residents were in high spirits as they filed out of the room after Tuesday’s presentation.

“The victory of the little people,” one woman said to another attendee. “Democracy lives.”