Residents Sound Off to Police About 13th Step and Other Boisterous Bars

bar story 13th step beer specialSimon McCormack

During two separate meetings with representatives of the police department this week, East Villagers complained about noise caused by the 13th Step on Second Avenue between Ninth and Tenth Streets, with one resident comparing the sports bar to Sodom and Gomorrah. Last night, other bars – including the Village Pourhouse, Webster Hall, and Amsterdam Billiards – were also singled out as sources of fighting and noise.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Ninth Precinct Community Council, David Keller, who lives across the street from the bar, complained that “late at night, it transforms into a nightclub. There is a line winding down the street.” Lieutenant Patrick Ferguson described it as one of the most successful bars in the neighborhood. He said the police were well aware of the quality of life issues there, but that it passed a noise test by the Department of Environmental Protection on Sept. 17, so there wasn’t much he could do.

Last night, the bar came up again at a community forum at Webster Hall, meant to address ongoing nightlife problems around Second and Third Avenues.

A crowd of about 25 gathered at the nightclub to discuss heavy foot traffic, street noise, and drunken behavior in the northwest corner of the East Village on weekend nights. Webster Hall general manager Gerard McNamee, who began hosting bi-annual community forums about four years ago, moderated the conversation, which incorporated voices of neighbors across generations and representatives from popular bars on nearby blocks, including the Village Pourhouse and Amsterdam Billiards.

Screen shot 2011-10-21 at 1.43.36 AMPhillip Kalantzis-Cope

Several locals unable to attend the meeting contacted Mr. McNamee to report their concerns about the 13th Step, complaining about noise, lines that blocked the sidewalk, party buses, and under-aged drunkenness.

“Suddenly this place is like Sodom and Gomorrah or something,” one attendee said.

Greg Fink, a police officer in the Ninth Precinct’s conditions unit, reported to the group that the 13th Step had been investigated twice already in 2011, accumulating about 10 violations in total. Though he did not address specific violations, he suggested offenses related to serving minors, disorderly premises, and blocking the sidewalk.

Although Mr. McNamee sent an invitation to the 13th Step, nobody attended to represent the bar. Later Thursday night, bar manager Nancy Gates said that the establishment took noise complaints seriously.

“We do try our best to make sure that our neighbors are happy and undisturbed as the night progresses,” Ms. Gates said by phone.

Last year, a bartender told us that “you can go out and have a good time and get pretty damn drunk for half price” at the bar. It wasn’t the only one under scrutiny last night. While some residents of 11th Street were concerned with fighting on the street shared by Webster Hall and Amsterdam Billiards, other attendees complained about noise from the Village Pourhouse on Third Avenue. Bonnie R., a 10th Street resident who preferred to give only her last initial, once went to lodge a complaint with the bar in the early hours of the morning, and described the scene: “It looked like Times Square on New Years Eve.”

Attendees were more concerned with disruptive drunken behavior outside bars than within them. Although there are no bars on Adam Rogers’s block on Ninth Street, where the 46-year-old musician has lived since 1991, he is not insulated from the street noise of East Village nightlife.

He fumed, “There are hundreds and hundreds of people – and I become enraged when I’m saying this – who walk up and down my block, juiced out of their gourds, kicking over garbage cans, screaming like maniacs.”

Bar owners lent a sympathetic ear to the complaints of their neighbors. Mr. McNamee said that Webster Hall kept 45 security personnel on site on busy nights, and he often patrolled neighboring streets himself, trying to keep noise down. However, many residents were frustrated by the lack of police involvement in late-night noise, in part due to reductions in the precinct’s cabaret unit.

For now, some locals are finding their own solutions to the noise problem. Lou Stolz, 77, a resident of 10th street for 50 years, dreads Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in the city. Last weekend, fed up, he took a stand against late night revelers with a bullhorn complete with siren. “Normally I pray for bad weather or go out of town,” he shrugged.

Additional reporting by Stephen Rex Brown.