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On St. Marks, Saints Tavern Comes Marching In

Care for a Malibu Barbie with that plate of frickles? You can now order just that on St. Marks Place.

Its red-and-gold exterior may be loud, but Saints Tavern opened rather quietly last week, boasting 20 beers on tap, cocktails with names like The Grapeful Dead, and a touch of Americana (a pinup photo of Marilyn Monroe faces a replica of Joe DiMaggio’s Yankees uniform).

Alfonso Londono, who owns the tavern along with partners Richard Romano and Aida Levinshon, comes from a restaurant family. He opened his first place Hoops, a college sports bar, at the age of 21, and went on to operate a Mexican restaurant and an Asian fusion concept as well as The Copper Barrel in the Financial District.

Mr. Londono thought the American vibe would help distinguish Saints Tavern from its Asian neighbors. He and his partners scoured flea markets and local shops such as Obscura Antiques to find decor such as a bear head with boxing gloves and a big fish with a soda can. On the ground floor customers can draw all over tables made of chalkboard.
See the menu

Heathers Bar Is Up For Grabs

heathersNick DeSantis

After nearly losing its liquor license last September, Heathers Bar is up for sale.

Heather Millstone confirmed her eponymous bar was on the market after The Local received a listing from Steven Kamali Hospitality indicating that it’s available for a $150,000 fixture fee plus $6,850 per month in rent.

“It’s been a rough year for me on a lot of different levels, so I’m exploring my options,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I don’t think anyone should rejoice or mourn just yet, Heathers will probably still be around for some time, just not forever.”

Ms. Millstone said her reasons for seeking a new operator were “solely personal” and had nothing to do with her recent experience in front of Community Board 3. In September, neighbors complaining of late-night noise and unlimited drink specials convinced the board to recommend that the State Liquor Authority reject the bar’s application for a liquor license renewal, but the S.L.A. granted it anyway.

At the time, signs on the bar’s door read, “SAVE HEATHERS.”

First Lakeside, Now Parkside Needs Help

Add Parkside Lounge to the long list of neighborhood mainstays that are soliciting donations to keep afloat. The East Houston Street bar seeks $10,000 to overhaul its performance space to include a new bar and better sound equipment. “With all the stuff that’s going on in the neighborhood right now, sometimes I get nervous. Some places have just completely changed their identities. I don’t want to do that,” operating partner Christopher Lee says in the video, filmed by the local fundraising company Lucky Ant.

The longstanding bar serves up cheap booze and an eclectic array of musical acts, much like Lakeside Lounge did before it shuttered at the end of April. Read more…

The Day | A Blaze on Avenue D

Fire EngineSusan Keyloun

Good morning, East Village.

Have you seen the bus stop sign on St. Marks Place that seems to have been hacked down like an old oak tree? If not, Neighborhoodr has some fun photos. “No Standing” indeed.

In other news, the fire department had an early wake up call this morning. DNAinfo reports that a minor fire broke out at 5:43 a.m. at 40 Avenue D. It took firefighters 30 minutes to control the blaze on the eighth floor. No one was hurt and the cause of the fire is being investigated.

Finally, after the closing of Banjo Jim’s was delayed, the staff of the bluegrass, jazz, and Americana bar has now announced (per EV Grieve) that Monday is the final day of business. As you know, new owner Rob Ceraso is converting the space into an artisanal cocktail bar.

Liquor License Transfer Approved

Banjo Jim'sMeghan Keneally The transfer was approved for Banjo Jim’s.

The State Liquor Authority Committee of Community Board 3 Monday night endorsed the transfer of the liquor license at Banjo Jim’s, the popular bluegrass bar on Avenue C.

The transfer of the bar’s liquor license was said to be the only issue left to be resolved before the bar was sold to an ownership group led by Robert Ceraso. The next step is for the Community Board to pass along its recommendation to the State Liquor Authority.

The new license allows for acoustic guitar accompanied by microphone amplification and DJs up to two times per week. The hours will remain the same as they are at Banjo Jim’s currently — 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. throughout the week, and then from noon until 4 a.m. on the weekends. Few other details were finalized at Monday’s meeting, except that the signage will change — perhaps unsurprising since Mr. Ceraso has indicated that he will depart from the bluegrass theme and opt for an “artisanal” motif, which may not fit with the large banjo on the current sign over the bar’s front door. The bar’s new doors will be barn-style with glass windows that can be lifted and opened in the summer months.

Health Department Shutters Mars Bar

Mars Bar Beer on SidewalkJoshua Davis Owner Hank Penza sat outside Mars Bar as beer was taken away for what could be the last time after the Health Department ordered the bar closed.

Update | 7:34 p.m. Mars Bar, a symbol of a bygone era in the East Village, was widely expected to go out with a bang — a blow-out party before its home on the corner of East First Street and Second Avenue is demolished to make way for a condo tower. Instead, the bar has fallen to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which today ordered the shutters pulled down for what regulars expect to be the last time.

A spokeswoman for the department confirmed that the bar was closed after an inspector found approximately 850 fruit flies in the bar; conditions “conducive to a pest infestation;” cracked and chipped walls and unsecured gas cylinders.

News of the bar’s closure was first posted by EV Grieve, with other outlets quickly following suit. Calls to the bar were met with gruff confirmations that it had been closed but further details did not immediately emerge.

Outside Mars Bar this afternoon, regulars and staff appeared in a foul mood, threatening reporters and photographers and refusing to answer questions. Owner Hank Penza told a Village Voice reporter that he was “tired” and that was why the bar was closing.

Around 4 this afternoon, a yellow Health Department sign had been spotted posted on the bar’s door but within a half hour it was covered by a makeshift sign that simply read “closed.”
Read more…

Debating an ‘Artisanal’ Vision for a Bar

Banjo Jim'sMeghan Keneally. A staple of the East Village music scene, the future of Banjo Jim’s is up for approval.

After the blogger EV Grieve reported that changes may be coming to Banjo Jim’s, a popular bluegrass bar on Avenue C, locals took to their keyboards and headed to the blog’s comments section in anguish.

The bar’s prospective owner, Robert Ceraso, told the blog that he will be presenting a plan to the State Liquor Authority Committee of Community Board 3 tonight asking that the liquor license for the bar be tranferred to he and his partners. In describing his vision for his bar, Mr. Ceraso said that he envisioned it as an “artisanal neighborhood cocktail bar.” And that did him in.

Commenters skewered his use of the word, likening it to buzzwords of trends past, and immediately branded him as one of the big bad developers swooping in to discard the East Village of old.

One commenter, Chris Flash, wrote: “Yet another cool unpretentious music venue lost on the LES, to be replaced by yet ANOTHER yuppie dive, as if Ceraso’s dive will be different from any other dive!!”

Another, Bowery Boogie, said: “Missing Banjo Jim’s already. Artisinal is one of those buzz words that makes me puke every time.”

Mr. Ceraso said that the reaction was not totally unexpected.

“I knew there was going to be some backlash,” Mr. Ceraso said in a telephone interview. “People don’t like change and they turned me into some crazy guy that wants to change the neighborhood.”
Read more…

Liquor License Transfer Rules Clarified

IMG_0030Laura E. Lee Participants at tonight’s meeting.

The State Liquor Authority Task Force of Community Board 3 approved a resolution tonight that clarifies the terms under which liquor licenses can be transferred when bars and restaurants are sold in the East Village.

The action, which will go to a vote of the full board at its next meeting, allows for “grandfathering” — a process in which the buyer of a business is allowed to assume the license owned by the seller, provided that the business had its license prior to June 28 and other criteria are met.

Before tonight’s meeting, it was unclear how policy changes enacted by the full community board in February would affect applicants who requested a “grandfathered” transfer.

The “grandfathering” provision is not used by other community boards, according to Susan Stetzer, the district manager of Community Board 3. But Community Board 3 allows businesses to apply as transfers, provided they meet other criteria like being deemed responsible business owners — a status evaluated by a review of liquor authority reports, police violations and complaints to the 311 city services information hotline.
Read more…

Conversation | Liquor Licenses

Mars Bar, East Village, New York City 69Vivienne Gucwa A selection of bottles at Mars Bar.

Earlier this week, Community Board 3 voted to amend the policies for transferring liquor licenses when local businesses are bought and sold.

Save the Lower East Side said that the move “may be the most significant vote” that the board has ever taken.

The blog theorized that the move might reverse a trend that has seen rents rise and created a dense cluster of bars in the neighborhood.

“If prospective bar owners know that they must face the community to get license approval, they will be less likely to buy that business, especially here in areas of bar density, where there will be the most community objection. If bars are reluctant, landlords can’t count on high-rent bars for their commercial spaces, and will have to settle for lower-rent businesses. That will lower commercial rents and bring commercial diversity.”

We’d like to hear your thoughts about the board’s decision. Is it a good thing that prospective bar owners may now have to think twice about coming to the East Village? Or are those businesses being unfairly targeted? Let us know. Put your response in the comments section below.

For Beer Purists, Local Brews to Savor

NY Craft Beer Week, promotes brews with quirky names — Ommegang, Pretty Things, and Dog Fish Head — that have been designated “craft, ” meaning made by traditional methods and lacking “adjuncts” like rice or corn that are often used in mass production beers.

The East Village can claim bragging rights for having more bars participating than any other neighborhood in the city, according to Josh Schaffner, director of NY Craft Beer Week. Each bar features a specific brewery and offers money-saving promotions with the purchase of a passport.

Below is a map of all participating bars, their locations, and featured breweries. Craft Beer Week ends Sunday.

View NY Craft Beer Week – East Village in a larger map