May 7, 2013 By Christian Murray
A popular Long Island City restaurant faces a real battle in getting the approval it needs to open its backyard space.
Jeff Blath, the owner of Alobar, is trying to get permission to use his restaurant’s backyard seating area. However, his application has already upset two nearby residents who spoke out against it at last Thursday’s Community Board 2 monthly meeting. Furthermore, many bars and restaurants on Vernon Blvd have been rejected seeking this type of approval in the past.
Blath, whose restaurant is located at 46-42 Vernon Blvd, has never been able to use his backyard space since he assured Community Board 2 that he wouldn’t use it when he applied for his liquor license about 18 months ago.
“When I first made my pitch [for a liquor license], the Lounge 47 war was at its height,” Blath said, referring to the bar/restaurant that was denied the use of its backyard following complaints about noise levels from neighbors. Lounge 47 closed earlier this year.
On Wednesday, Blath is going to present his proposal at the Community Board 2’s City Services Committee—where he will outline his plans to use the 18-by-20 foot backyard area, which has 11-foot high walls and an awning.
Blath said he said he wants to reach a compromise with the community board. “I’m not seeking to open it until 2 am. I plan to close it at 10:30pm.” Furthermore, he said his establishment is a restaurant not a bar.
Blath said that nearly 500 people have signed a petition in support of the opening of the backyard space and that he speaks to customers everyday who support his goal. “I live in Long Island City and know the people here and they support it.”
But Joe Conley, chairman of community board 2, said that he has received several e-mails and they are “overwhelmingly against it [opening].”
Furthermore, the two people who complained about the opening of the backyard space said they represented several residents who live next to the restaurant.
Paul Short, whose property abuts Alobar’s backyard, said that the backyard would act as an “echo-chamber” and that the noise of people laughing, drinking and speaking over each other would travel into the shared backyard space of many residents.
Meanwhile, David Hasse, who lives near Alobar’s back space, said it would ruin “our peaceful courtyards,” adding that the opening of the back space would be “disastrous.”
Conley said that Alobar would be provided with a fair hearing when it presents its case. However, he reiterated that “we have heard many objections.”
Should Alobar go ahead and open its backyard without the consent of the community board, it would be taking a risk, one board member said.
Community boards hold a lot of sway on these matters since they make recommendations to the New York State Liquor Authority when it comes time for an establishment to renew its liquor license.
Blath said if the community board denies him the use of his backyard space it would put him at a competitive disadvantage, since many restaurant will soon be permitted to offer outdoor front seating—due to a zoning change. His establishment does not qualify for such seating because the sidewalk in front of his restaurant is too narrow.