Liquor Panel Deadlocks on 34 Ave. A

IMG_0030Laura E. Lee Board members at a recent meeting.

After a contentious two-hour discussion in front of more than 100 people, the licensing committee of Community Board 3 took no action regarding a liquor license for Piney Woods, a proposed venue at 34 Avenue A. No majority emerged during three votes on potential resolutions so the committee turned the matter over to be considered by the full board.

The venue is the work of Todd Patrick, an indie music organizer commonly known as Todd P., and Phil Hartman, Two Boots Pizza owner. Mr. Hartman also owned Mo Pitkins, a venue at the same address that closed in 2007. The space ultimately became the bar Aces & Eights in 2009.

Tensions ran high among the crowd gathered for the meeting at the Green Residence on East Fifth Street. At one point, chatter from audience members prompted Alexandra Militano, committee chair, to scold the spectators for “heckling” when opposing viewpoints were presented.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Patrick said the space would bring back some of the neighborhood’s musical and cultural history lost to gentrification.

“We are looking to be a place that harkens back to what brought us all to this neighborhood in the first place, which is the quality artistic legacy of this community,” he said.

Susan Stetzer, district manager for the board, spoke in opposition to the license but said later that her opposition was as a private citizen and not as city official.

“What we’re talking about is kind of community planning. This is 150 more people on the street at 4 a.m.,” she said. “We cannot accommodate that.”

Ms. Stetzer lives across the street from the proposed site which was denied license approval by the committee in March.

The current request differed from the previously denied application because it did not list Jevan Damadian, former owner of Aces & Eights. The Piney Woods proprieters severed ties with Mr. Damadian after hearing concerns from residents at the March meeting.

Eleven proponents of the license, many of whom were musicians, spoke about the closure of music venues in the area and the desire for music that is outside the mainstream.

Most of the 16 people who spoke against the license expressed concerns about the proposed 4 a.m. closing time and possible noise created by the establishment. During the course of the hearing, the applicants agreed to potential stipulations that would have closed the site at an earlier time but the resolution failed.

The venue falls within one of the resolution areas– regions with high concentrations of licenses where the Board operates on a presumption of denial.

Andrew Coamey, an East Village resident, spoke out in opposition to Piney Woods because he said it did not meet the criteria for an exception to the resolution area. “The reasons are simple: consistency and no public benefit for residents,” he said.

The full board will consider the application at its monthly meeting next Tuesday.