Neighbors Accuse Club Owners of Bowery Bait-and-Switch

SAM_0203Lila Selim Standing, left to right: Mark Birnbaum, Robert
Bookman and Eugene Remm

Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm — owners of buzzy new nightspots The General, Bow, and Finale at 199 Bowery — faced the music last night at a meeting of Community Board 3’s liquor license committee. Alexandra Militano, the committee’s chair, introduced the dapper duo by announcing that Finale had received no less than twenty-seven 311 complaints in November and December between the hours of 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m., and that leading up to the meeting, the committee had received about a half dozen letters of opposition from residents or groups of community members. The one letter of support was from the NYC Hospitality Alliance, of which EMM’s attorney Robert Bookman is a founding member. That produced a cynical chuckle from the audience.

Mr. Birnbaum and Mr. Remm (together EMM Group) were seeking the board’s approval to move the location of their dance floor from the basement to the ground floor, where they would be able to install proper soundproofing. Though by their own admission, they were asking for retroactive approval: the upstairs club has been operational since November.

Of the eleven speakers to comment, Danielle Schwob, an upstairs neighbor, spoke first, saying that the music from the club doesn’t end until 5:30 a.m., construction starts at 7 a.m., and the incessant noise has “seriously derailed my life.” The work-at-home composer said she hadn’t been able to work since the club opened. Other residents had similar complaints about noise, and said that Finale’s management was uncooperative.

A few community members did speak in support of the application. One was even a ninth-floor resident of the building. Another speaker, however, was later identified as an employee of Mr. Remm and Mr. Birnbaum, at a different club. One supporter remarked that the Lower East Side had been looking for this exact “boost of gentrification.”

EMM got off to a bad start with their neighbors and Community Board 3 last summer, when they were initially approved for a full bar and cabaret license, claiming they planned to open a live jazz club, restaurant, and bakery in the basement and ground-level floors of the condo building. The jazz club and restaurant have yet to open, though Mr. Remm claimed they would all open within two weeks. Both levels have been home to clubs in the past, but according to Richard Alpern, the condo president, they have never experienced neighbors this bad before.

After more than two hours of debate, constant interruptions and heckling by both sides, the issue was tabled until the end of the evening in order to move on with the agenda, after which the application was withdrawn. EMM Group should appear again next month.

In other news

Some of the owners of Pianos at 158 Ludlow were denied the committee’s support for their application to take over The Living Room. Community members commented that the existing club has a bad reputation for crime and crowds, and the owners’ argument that this would be a different kind of place was not believable.

Sivan Harlap, the current owner of B-Side bar at 204 Avenue B received support for her application to open a beer and wine pub at 200 Clinton Street next to an existing chip shop, which will provide a full menu for the pub.