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A new wine bar is set to move into the corner of Driggs and Metropolitan avenues, but for nearby residents, it is one bar too many.
At a Community Board 1 Public Safety meeting on August 4 (435 Graham Avenue), the owners of Custom American Wine Bar made their plea to the community to proceed with their liquor license so they can open their business.
The principals, Dan Lathroum and Stefan Mailvaganam, havea combined 17 years of experience in the food industry in Manhattan and described their restaurant as an upscale winebar featuring regional cuisine with locally sourced food and alcohol, which could be open as late as 2 a.m.
That revelation led to an audible gasp among two dozen residents who stuffed the cramped CB1 headquarters, many of whom spoke against the addition of the bar to their Williamsburg neighborhood.
“It’s nothing personal to the people running this business, but the neighborhood is nearly saturated with bars,” said Dennis Thompkins, a Williamsburg resident.“The area is becoming unlivable.What we need are businesses that serve our community, not a transient community.”
Luis Santiago, who was representing tenants from 232-238 Metropolitan Avenue, said that many residents on the block above the establishment did not speak English and were likely not aware of the new owners’ plans.
“We are trying to prevent gang activity in the neighborhood,” said Santiago.“I think that opening this restaurant with beer and liquor, with teenagers already going crazy here, it’s going to be an even bigger issue.I don’t think it’s a good idea for there to be tables and a cafe out on the sidewalk.”
Lathroum, one of the owners of the bar and a Williamsburg resident, responded to his neighbors’ concerns by saying his restaurant would attract a more upscale clientele and not “drunken frat boys” who have been disrupting the neighborhood.
“We expected opposition but I didn’t expect to be vilified,” said Lathroum.“When you say ‘drunken frat boys,’ frat boys don’t come to drink an $11 glass of wine, grab an indigenous bite to eat, and listen to jazz.”
Williamsburg residents pleaded with the owners to close the bar at 9 p.m., even saying that 10 p.m. would be acceptable, but state liquor laws permit businesses to remain open much later.“That’s actually legal,” CB 1 Public Safety Chair Mieszko Kalita said.“Every licensed bar can stay open until 4 a.m.”
Several homeowners who attended the meetinglived one block away on Fillmore Place, Williamsburg’s first historic district. One of the residents compiled a list of 23 bars and restaurants located within one block of the historic district as well as a petition with over 100 signatures representing opposition to the plan.
At the end of the meeting, the committee made the recommendation to not approve Custom’s liquor license, but the application will go before the full board on September 9.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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