Neighbor Wants Handsome Dick Manitoba to Turn Down the Tunes

Dick Manitoba and Zoe HansenShira Levine Dick Manitoba and Zoe Hansen

In yet another case of neighbor versus nightlife, a long-running dispute between an East Village bar owner and a tenant who lives in the apartment upstairs spilled over into the Ninth Precinct Community Council meeting Tuesday night. The bar in question is Manitoba’s, a punk-themed dive opened at 99 Avenue B in 1999 by Richard “Handsome Dick” Manitoba of the Dictators.

William Huffman, the tenant, is a private chef who lives directly above the bar. At the meeting, he said he has made countless noise complaints and calls to 311, 911, and the bar itself over the past five years. Mr. Manitoba corroborated the mere existence of the dispute, but the parties disagree wildly on its particulars.

For example, Mr. Manitoba claims that a few weeks ago, Mr. Huffman, in a fit of pique, came downstairs to the bar and “threw water on the patrons. I called 911. When [Mr. Huffman] came out of the building, he had a beer in his hand and the cops gave him a ticket for drinking on the street.”

Zoe Hansen of Manitoba'sShira Levine Zoe Hansen

Mr. Huffman strenuously denied the incident. “I don’t have an axe to grind. I just want him to follow the rules and regulations in order to live peacefully as neighbors,” he said.

According to the city’s Noise Code Guide, sound emanating from bars and restaurants may not exceed 42 decibels as measured from inside nearby residences. Mr. Manitoba said that five years ago, he hired an acoustics team to test the noise levels in the apartments upstairs, but they could not gain access to Mr. Huffman’s apartment.

Mr. Manitoba and his wife, Zoe Hansen, who manages the bar, claim that they have discontinued all live music to mollify Mr. Huffman. “We even agreed to lower the jukebox after 10 p.m.,” said Ms. Hansen. However, Mr. Huffman maintains that he “routinely” hears music as late as 4 a.m.

City 311 records show that 21 complaints about loud music have been lodged against the bar since May of 2010.

Approximately four years ago the two men shared “heated words” on the sidewalk outside the bar, per Mr. Huffman. According to Mr. Manitoba, “The guy cursed out my staff and was belligerent.”

The antipathy between the two men has extended beyond Avenue B. Mr. Manitoba has denigrated Mr. Huffman’s character on his website and his Sirius XM show, “The Handsome Dick Manitoba Radio Program,” while Mr. Manitoba and Mrs. Hansen doubt the sincerity of Mr. Huffman’s efforts at resolution, arguing that he “would rather complain and somehow demonize the bar.”

“This is typical of the new East Villagers who buy expensive little apartments over a bar facing Avenue B — he wants to be in the cool EV — but don’t want to really deal with the people who have been the very fiber of this neighborhood for almost 30 years,” Ms. Hansen said in an e-mail.

For his part, Mr. Huffman suggests that the situation has been “really uncomfortable all the way around. I feel that it’s unfortunate that we can’t just look at each other man to man and say, ‘Why can’t we just work this out in a reasonable way?'”