April 24, 2014 By Christian Murray
The operators of a café/bakery that opened on 51st Street in December seek a wine and beer license—yet face long odds.
Jonathan Stirling and Faye Hess want a wine & beer license where they are still permitted to use their rear yard. They want to operate it until 8:30 pm each day. However, they are pushing the envelope, since Community Board 2 has rejected virtually all Hunters Point applicants seeking a liquor license accompanied with a yard in recent years. The reason cited: noise.
Faye, whose business is located at 5-33 51st Avenue café and is aptly named 51st Bakery & Cafe, said she is in search of a compromise. She wants to set up 4 outdoor tables, accompanied by 16 chairs, through to 8:30 pm.
Stirling and Faye live four doors down from the café and have been residents of Long Island City for the past 18 years. They once owned a café—called LIC Brick– where Café Enrique is today.
Hess said that the couple has 250 signatures supporting their quest for the wine and beer license, with 38 signatures coming from the immediate block. Hess said she is almost always on site, working there more than 70 hours a week.
“I’m not interested in creating a space that causes any kind of ruckus,” she said at a recent community board meeting. “I’m too old to ever have a late night place.”
The application has left the community board in a bind and the members want to review it further.
“If anyone seems like they are not going to be a problem, it’s them,” said Patrick O’Brien, who is the chairman of City Service/Public Safety Committee who oversees licenses. “Small place, closes at 8:30 pm, good track record, seem serious and responsible,” he said.
However, “We strive for consistency and we have to treat people fairly,” O’Brien said. “The community board is here to reflect the community as a whole and the community as a whole has spoken,” he said.
“This [policy] is the product of multiple public hearings and all kinds of inflamed discussions,” O’Brien said. “Until the tide turns it is kind of difficult.”
Hess said that the tide is turning as people learn about the issue. She said that many people don’t know anything about the issue or about the community board. “Therefore, there are a few well-heard voices who are speaking for the majority of us, who go to the meetings,” she said.
“I feel bad for the people on the [community] board who have to make these decisions while all the change is going on in Long Island City,” Hess said. “It can’t be easy.”
However, Hess said that she is confident that she will be able to reach a compromise with the board. She said that she will be in discussions with board in early May.