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Just in Time for Memorial Day Booze Runs, Alphabet City Beer Co.

When we first brought word of Alphabet City Beer Co. in December, it was an empty storefront. Last Thursday, the bar-and-beer-shop hybrid opened its doors and its taps. Helmed by David Hitchner (co-owner of In Vino, Alphabet City Wine Co.) and Zach Mack (a writer who has worked at tech start-ups) it’ll serve far-east guzzlers and gourmands who don’t feel like schlepping over to Good Beer to refill their growlers. In addition to coolers stocked with takeout bottles and cans from around the world, there’s a bar serving about a dozen beers on draft (expect the recently launched Alphabet City Brewing Co. to make appearances) and a grocery section carrying cured meats and cheeses picked out by Martin Johnson, an East Villager who writes the Joy of Cheese blog and also knows a thing or two about jazz.

The new shop expects to host beer tastings on a weekly basis. Sixpoint Brewery recently visited, and Louisiana’s Abita Brewery will follow up with an event next week. Watch The Local’s video for a look inside.

Alphabet City Beer Co., 96 Avenue C, near East Seventh Street; (646) 422-7103

C.B. 3 May Change Policy: Early Bird Gets the Beer

wine is hereMichelle Rick

Community Board 3 may reverse its hardline stance against new beer-and-wine licenses in booze-heavy areas of the East Village and Lower East Side. In a letter to residents, the board will ask whether it should be more lenient to those seeking such licenses within resolution areas, so long as the businesses agree to operate primarily in the daytime and close at midnight or earlier.

The move comes just a few months after The Local unleashed a sobering study showing that the State Liquor Authority regularly disregards the board’s recommendations regarding who should or shouldn’t be allowed to serve wine and beer (as opposed to hard liquor) in resolution areas – nightlife-heavy strips such as St. Marks Place where the board has recommended a moratorium on new licenses.

At a meeting of the SLA task force last night, board member David Crane described the motivation behind the potential policy shift. “The SLA generally is going to grant a beer-wine license,” he said. “Since that’s a reality, we’re interested in preventing problems. We want to work with the SLA given that that’s a fact.”  Read more…

Born B.A.D.: Masco Butts Heads With C.B. 3 Again

Stephen Rex Brown The electrifying scene at last night’s meeting.

The always-colorful Community Board 3 liquor license committee recommended on Monday night that one of its more outspoken critics not be allowed to serve beer and wine at his restaurant.

The board denied the beer-wine license for Keith Masco’s 24-hour B.A.D. Burger, citing the proximity of other booze-selling establishments, similar restaurants that operate without licenses, and “consistent community opposition.”

“B.A.D. Burger, bad neighbor. Deny them,” said Shawn Chittle, who lives above the restaurant at 171 Avenue A.
Read more…

Zaragoza, a Hideaway for Cheap Beer and Burritos, Loses Its Beer

zaragozaDaniel Maurer

The price hike at Café Zaiya wasn’t the only surprise The Local got while stopping into a zed-happy cheap-eats standby yesterday – upon squeezing into the narrow Zaragoza Mexican Deli and Grocery for a spicy beef tongue burrito, we were dismayed to see empty boxes in the coolers where six packs of Estrella Damm beer had recently beckoned. The tables packed near the jukebox in the grocery’s back corner were empty. We were told the taqueria’s beer license had lapsed and a new one was expected shortly. A look at the State Liquor Authority’s Website confirms that the old license expired at the end of July, however a SLA spokesman told The Local that Zaragoza “did not send in for a renewal,” and there is no new license application pending at its address, 215 Avenue A. Which means it may be some time before you can enjoy your carnitas tacos with an ice-cold Negra Modelo again.

This isn’t the only liquor license hiccup the family-operated canteen has faced of late. Read more…

State to Review Sales of Four Loko

FourLoko_cansChelsia Rose Marcius The banned drink was on sale last week.

As we told you last week, The Local found five East Village establishments selling the caffeinated version of Four Loko, the alcoholic beverage banned last year after the New York State Liquor Authority and in-state distributors agreed to stop selling the product.

Officials with the authority said today that they plan to look into the continued sale and distribution of the beverage.

“We’ll have to investigate how this product is still on the shelves,” said William Crowley, a spokesman for the authority. “If someone is selling that stuff illegally, it’s something we’re going to look into.”

Mr. Crowley said that investigation could include examining inventory records to determine where businesses are getting the drink. He said that Four Loko is a small part of distributor inventory, and for wholesalers to continue selling the product to retailers and “take a risk like that would be surprising.”

Store owners found selling the drink face fines ranging from $1,500 to $2,000 and other penalties, including the revocation of their liquor licenses.

Steve Harris, president of the New York State Beer Wholesalers Association, said it is highly unlikely — but not impossible — that retailers are getting the drink from New York distributors who are not a part of the association.

He noted that area businesses could also be “getting it illegally from New Jersey wholesalers or retailers,” or other out-of-state distributors.

“I can tell you unequivocally that none of my members sell the stimulant stuff anymore,” said Mr. Harris, whose group is made up of 44 distributors. “But there is another group of wholesalers that could still have it.”

Banned Version of Four Loko Still Sold

FourLoko_cansChelsia Rose Marcius An image of a store shelf at the Houston Village Farm on the corner of First Avenue and Fourth Street featuring the banned version of the caffeinated alcoholic beverage Four Loko.

Along the left-side wall of a bodega on Avenue B stands a row of glass door refrigerators, stocked with an assortment of alcoholic beverages from bottles of Budweiser to cans of Coors Light.

Three shelves down in the first fridge, there’s also another beer-like brew — Four Loko, the caffeinated alcoholic beverage that created a buzz before it was banned last year in several states, including New York.

The manager of this minimart — who spoke only on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job — said he knows it’s “illegal” to sell this version of the drink, an alcohol and caffeine combo that was manufactured by Phusion Projects last year before the company reformulated the product to eliminate caffeine. Yet more than seven months after the December 2010 ban took effect, several East Village establishments continue to sell the old Four Loko, a top selling brand name that brings some small businesses big bucks.

The Local visited 39 East Village establishments along Broadway, Third Avenue, Second Avenue, First Avenue, Avenue A, Avenue B, Avenue C and Avenue D. Of these, 26 sold the new, non-caffeinated Four Loko.

However, five stores — Le Basket, 683 Broadway; Houston Village Farm, 61 First Avenue; 1st Ave Village Farm & Grocery, 113 First Avenue; Village Magazine, Cigar & Gourmet Food, 102 Second Avenue; and 21 Produce Corp., 21 Avenue B. — were still selling the banned product, as of Thursday.
Read more…

For Locals, Shock at Mars Bar’s Closure

Mars Bar umbrellasJoshua Davis Former patrons of Mars Bar customers gathered outside the now-closed bar Monday night for an impromptu candlelight vigil.

Occasional customers and regulars at Mars Bar were shocked Monday night to learn that the Department of Health ordered the bar to close. City health inspectors found several sanitation violations and slapped a yellow “Closed” sticker on the bar’s front door Monday afternoon. Many East Villagers believe that Monday was the last time they’ll ever see Mars Bar open to the public.

Julie Turley, East Village resident since 1995 and a librarian at Borough of Manhattan Community College, said she loved the art on the walls at Mars Bar.

“I didn’t realize it was closing so soon. I don’t even drink really, but I always said if the Mars Bar closed, I would have to leave New York because it would be sort of the last slice of cake for that area — that represented this city’s grungy past. I never felt like I belonged there, but I’m still sad to see it go.”
Read more…

Honoring Ray Deter, New Orleans Style

DBA Second Line tromboneJoshua Davis About 150 people turned out for a Second Line tribute to Ray Deter.
DBA Second Line UmbrellasJoshua Davis
DBA Second Line Hula HoopJoshua Davis
East Village Jazz Funeral (II)Roey Ahram

A trumpet sounded. A trombone rose. And in a mix of mourning and celebration, dozens of feet danced up First Avenue Monday night in a true New Orleans tradition — a Second Line parade honoring the life of Ray Deter, owner of d.b.a. bar who died July 3, six days after he was struck by a car while cycling.

About 150 people turned out for the march, which wove from the bar on First Avenue through the East Village and ended at Mr. Deter’s Sixth Street apartment. The procession spilled out from the sidewalks and blocked traffic for several blocks. Led by musicians, the crowd sang songs, waved umbrellas and lit candles in memory of their friend.

Linnzi Zaorski, a jazz singer, offered an a capella song in memory of her friend as the parade paused in front of the New York City Marble Cemetery where Mr. Deter’s memorial service will be held on Wednesday. Then she looked up, smiled and blew a kiss towards the sky. “We love you, Ray,” she said, as the brass music began again.

Sounds of the Second Line

The Local’s Laura E. Lee and Chelsia Rose Marcius share their video of Monday night’s Second Line parade honoring Ray Deter.

Remembering Ray Deter

Ray DeterRay Deter

We’d like to invite you to share your stories and memories of Ray Deter.

Mr. Deter, who owned d.b.a bar on First Avenue, died Sunday and dozens of his regulars are already paying their respects on d.b.a’s Facebook page.

Friends have recalled Mr. Deter’s knowledge about brews, his Internet radio program Beer Sessions Radio, and his work with the Good Beer Seal.

Write about your experiences with Mr. Deter at his bar in the Comments section below.

In The East Village, A Craft Beer Hub

IMG_0405Spencer Magloff A selection of the 900 beer varieties that are offered at Good Beer, a Ninth Street shop that opened Tuesday, which specializes in craft beer.

Once a niche drink, craft beers are tapping new devoted drinkers, especially in the East Village. At last month’s NY Craft Beer Week, the East Village had more participating bars than any other neighborhood in the city.

Good Beer on 422 East Ninth Street became the latest craft beer purveyor when it opened its doors on Tuesday. The shop stocks more than 400 chilled craft beers, and David Cichowicz, the store’s manager, said he hopes to have about 900 unique beers once all shipments are received from his six distributors. The beers are organized geographically from East to West coast in refrigeration flanking the entire right-side wall along with 12 growler-ready taps.

Besides their quintessentially quirky names—Ommegang, DogFish Head, Smuttynose, Allagash, Pretty Things—a beer is designated “craft” so long as it is brewed by traditional methods and lacks adjuncts like rice or corn that often lower production costs but dilute flavor. While craft beer often costs a few more dollars, many aficionados say the more flavorful taste and heftier alcohol content are well worth the price.

IMG_0403Spencer Magloff Taps (top) and bottles at Good Beer.

As U.S. beer sales declined in the first half of 2010, the craft brewing industry grew in both volume and retail dollars, according to the Brewers Association. While this is indicative of a national trend, Chris O’Leary, writer of the beer blog, Brew York, New York, said the trend has gained a particularly strong foothold in the East Village for several reasons.

For one, the neighborhood is less pricey and the demographic is generally younger. Also many The East Village restaurateurs believe food can pair as well with craft beer as with wine.

“There is just as much complexity to beer as wine, and people are becoming convinced they can couple craft beer with good food,” Mr. O’Leary said while sipping a pint of Shipyard Pumpkin Head at Destination Bar on Avenue A. Price is another consideration. “A lot of people can’t justify spending $40 for a bottle of wine, but $12 for a good six-pack is doable.”

The East Village also has a storied history of craft brewing tradition. Standings Bar on East Seventh Street, formerly known as Brewsky’s, was one of the first bars in all New York City to serve a selection of craft beers. This was 20 years ago when, as Mr. O’Leary said, “The holy grail was just to find a Samuel Adams.”

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