March 22, 2014 By Christian Murray
Several budding Long Island City restaurant owners failed to show up to a community board hearing Wednesday that dealt with their liquor license applications.
There were five restaurant applications and representatives from just two appeared at the hearing, which was held at the new high school at 1-50 51st Avenue.
Of the three no-shows, two didn’t attend since they decided not to go ahead with their plans. Daniel Shifteh withdrew his plans to open a Mediterranean restaurant at 10-17 Jackson Avenue, while the applicant for a liquor license at 11-18 46th Road no longer plans to open.
But the most notable absence was of Tom Blaze, the owner of a new pizzeria (L’inizio), which is scheduled to open at 47-23 Vernon Boulevard in May.
Blaze seeks a beer and wine license for the establishment, which includes a large rear yard. Many Long Island City residents showed up Wednesday solely to oppose Blaze’s application and his use of garden. His application remains the most controversial and opponents of it have called on public officials to oppose it.
But Blaze said Friday that he did not make the hearing since he nor his attorney were notified.
“I would have loved to have gone and told people what I want to do and how I am proud part of the community,” he said.
Blaze said he wants the use of the yard for children’s events. “The rear yard is large and is ideal for children’s pizza parties,” Blaze said. “This is what attracted me to opening the pizzeria.”
The use of rear gardens by restaurants has become a contentious issue along Vernon Boulevard in recent years—as neighboring residents have complained about noise. The community board has been able to sway several restaurants to keep their rear yards shut, by pledging not to oppose the issuance of their liquor license if they oblige.
Blaze said that he doesn’t want to create problems. “I just want to open a nice place for the community.”
However, his application has stirred up many in the neighborhood.
Even Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan has stepped into the fray. David Aglialoro, a representative of her office, read a letter at the community board hearing that Nolan had written to the State Liquor Authority in opposition to it.
“I am concerned about this development since there are many residential areas around this restaurant,” Aglialoro said, as he was reading Nolan’s letter. “The approval of this application would break the precedent and could lead to many other establishments along Vernon Blvd to reapply and change their status,” Nolan’s representative said.
Beth Garrett, who was in attendance with her husband William Garrett, told the board that she had a petition with more than 200 names on it opposed to the use of the backyard space. Several others members complained that the noise would carry down the street.
While the board did not render a decision on the matter Wednesday, the prospects that Blaze will be able to get a liquor license and get to use his backyard at the same time seemed dim.
The board pointed out inconsistencies in what Blaze had said in a past meeting with paper work he filed with the SLA.
However, Blaze said Friday that there must have been some sort of miscommunication.
But two owners did show up on Wednesday.
Heidy Smookler, who co-owns Mu Ramen with her husband, outlined her plans for the opening of the popular Japanese eatery at 12-09 Jackson Avenue—where Malu, the ice cream shop was located.
She told the board that the restaurant would consist of 22 seats—16 seats would be part of a large communal table, while the remaining 6 seats would be located next to the chef.
Smookler is applying for a full liquor license. She said she plans to sell wine, beer and Sake. She requested for her hours to be from noon to 4 am.
Pat O’Brien, who oversees liquor licenses on behalf of Community Board 2, was concerned about the 4 am closing and said he would speak to Smookler about it further. The next meeting on the matter is on April 9 in Woodside.
Meanwhile the owner of Beans, Grapes and Leaves—which will be located at 50-01 2nd Street– was there as part of his application for a wine and beer license.
This was the first time the board had any dealing with the establishment so it was merely an introduction to the operation.
The owner plans on opening a space comprised of 26 seats.
He said that he primarily aims to offer coffee, pastries, sandwiches, salads wine and beer. The establishment will not have a kitchen.
However, he wants to be able to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner and be open until 11 pm during the week and until 1 am on weekends.
There did not appear to be any objections from the board. However, the board will be meeting with the owner at its next meeting April 9