Monday, August 8, 2011

Falling to Pieces (continued)

August 4, 2011


I'm writing to you about the potential loss of a longtime Greenwich Village bar, Pieces. I own Pieces and want to fill you in on the past 6 weeks of drama that has surrounded my little bar. My particular story is interesting, but it also illustrates why NYC nightlife is a pale shadow of its former self.

Pieces has been at 8 Christopher St. since 1993. The building is falling apart, and the landlord has said that at the end of my current lease extension they will require us to vacate in order to gut the building and rebuild. They have made it clear that Pieces is not welcome back after.

After several failed deals, I finally secured a spot on W. 8th St., directly across 6th Ave. and literally 325' from my current location. With a handshake deal in place, I began negotiations with the neighbors as the first step in getting a liquor license is "notifying" the community board. In the past few years, this has changed from a true notification to a negotiation where you agree to many restrictions on your business operations in exchange for their not opposing you. Where the boards once had no real power, recent political pressure has made the State Liquor Authority increasingly more likely to follow their recommendations.

I went through extensive and exhaustive negotiations with the block association to no avail. They did not want a bar on their block, and no concessions I could make would placate them. They were afraid of noise, however there was also an undercurrent of homophobia, as well--pretty shocking for Greenwich Village. The community boards like for you to work things out with your neighbors prior to appearing before them, so I knew I was in a bit of trouble.

The liquor committee of the community board ended up recommending a denial of my license due to the opposition of the block association even though I had unprecedented support from the broader community, including people from the block. See here.

The committee is only a recommendation to the full board, however, and I still had one shot left at the full board. Overturning a committee recommendation is very difficult, but I had nothing to lose. I ended up winning. See here.

This Monday, on my way to the lease signing with the landlord after thousands of dollars of legal fees negotiating the lease and hundreds of hours invested in organizing to get community board approval, I got a call that the deal was "on hold". Canceling a deal at that point is unprecedented. Apparently, the residential tenants in the building and the superintendent marshaled a campaign of hate and homophobia which influenced the landlord to back out. See here.
Anyway, that is where things stand now. I don't know what, if any, interest this might hold for you, but if a small, quiet, neighborhood bar like Pieces can't move 300' away after agreeing to restricted hours, professional soundproofing, and other major concessions, it's no wonder that the City That Never Sleeps is becoming quiet and homogenized.

Feel free to contact me if you're interested in this and want to talk more.