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Pizzeria’s quest to allow its patrons to drink beer in rear yard gets thumbs down from Community Board

Feb. 10, 2017 By Christian Murray

A Vernon Blvd pizzeria is calling on the community board to allow it to serve alcohol to customers who use its backyard space.

L’inizio, an old-school pizzeria located at 47-23 Vernon Boulevard, went before Community Board 2’s City Services/Public Safety Committee in Long Island City Wednesday night seeking permission for its patrons to drink wine and beer in its rear yard.

Tom Blaze, the owner of the establishment, had sought such permission when he opened three years ago but was denied. Last year, he went before the board with 2,000 signatures and got nowhere. On Wednesday, he got the thumbs down yet again.

Currently, L’inizio is permitted to serve wine and beer but its customers are not allowed to consume it in the backyard.

The rear year is a 600 square foot space that has five tables and 22 seats. Much of the outdoor space is dedicated toward growing tomatoes, basil and peppers–ingredients used for the pizza.

Blaze’s application to allow his patrons to drink wine and beer in his backyard was a long shot since the concept of outdoor dining/drinking has been contentious issue on Vernon Blvd. for years.  Many Vernon Blvd. bars/restaurants are located next to apartments, and long-time residents complain about noise.

When Blaze applied three years ago prior to his opening, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan stepped in issuing a letter in opposition to his application concerned about the precedent it might set.

Several bars/restaurants with backyards on Vernon Blvd have opted to keep them closed in order to avoid conflict with the community board.

Pat O’Brien, chairman of the City Services/Public Safety committee, locked horns with Blaze at the meeting Wednesday after they questioned each other’s honesty. It was the exact argument that the two men had at the committee meeting a year ago.

O’Brien claimed that L’inizio had already been allowing its customers to drink in the rear yard, in violation of its existing license. He said that he—and one other board member– had seen people consuming alcohol in the backyard and that he had received reports from neighbors claiming the same thing.

“A tenant in your building upstairs e-mailed the board and said it was a frequent occurrence,” O’Brien said.

Blaze refuted O’Brien’s claim and said categorically that it had never happened. He said that he is at the establishment most of the time and that it was an impossibility.

“Have you taken any photographs or anything like that?” Blaze asked O’Brien, adding that he wanted dates and times of occurrences so he could check with his cameras.

O’Brien said he didn’t appreciate the cross examination and that the board does not have an investigative unit. He said that it can’t be refuted since he had seen it happen with his own eyes and it is what people have reported to the board.

Blaze challenged O’Brien asking when and how he saw it. O’Brien said he saw it on his way to his meeting.

Tom Blase (2014)

At that point Blaze pounced and said it was impossible to tell what people were drinking from the front of the establishment. A friend of Blaze’s chimed in and said: “How can you tell what’s at the bottom of someone’s cup from there.”

O’Brien said his eyesight is good despite wearing glasses.

“You say it has never happened. Yet we have witnessed it. This goes back to who is telling the truth and who is not telling the truth,” O’Brien said.

Blaze told the committee that his pizzeria had not received any complaints from the State Liquor Authority since it opened and that the neighborhood has embraced his establishment.

O’Brien acknowledged that L’inizio was a popular venue but questioned Blaze’s honesty.

“You understand to hold a license there is the requirement that you have the character and the fitness to hold it. I am struggling with this. I am not trying to hurt anyone here but you are telling me that I didn’t see what I saw,” O’Brien said.

When the committee voted on Blaze’s application there was no discussion as to the merits of the application. Instead its members were baffled by Blaze’s insistence that no alcohol had ever been consumed in the rear yard.

It was for this reason that the application was denied.

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21 Comments

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Yassss

The community board in LIC is ridiculous
How does the sports themed bar get a liquor license approval and L’Inizio cannot have customers consuming beer in their back yard space?

the mans trying to run a business. Why does CB2 seem to want to impede this?

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Sc

This is asinine. It’s time for the reasonable people in this neighborhood to stand-up and shut down the NIMBYs in this neighborhood. There are more of us than there are cranky old guys with hoses… the cranky guys are just louder right now.

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brooklynmc

I am torn about L’inizio. How many times can you take your wife and kids to get pizza and spend $40-$45? Large cheese pie at Slice is $17 and a large cheese pie at L’inizio is $19. Similar price. Problem is L’inizio tempts you with $5 fancy slices. Slice was smart, they saw an opportunity for a clean, reasonable pizza place for everyone. You can go in there and spend $20 for your family and leave happy. Every time I left L’inizio, I felt like I spent too much. The owner at L’inizio is hit or miss. Hello sometimes, other times looks like he is overwhelmed. Holds the door for you one day, doesn’t another. Music or TV too loud one day, very pleasant the next. I am not sure I will ever go to L’inizio again. It is very nice, the ingredients are high quality but this is a family neighborhood. Some days you just want a pizza and a chicken roll at a good price. One thing is for sure though, the old, salty LIC residents need to go. You guys don’t own the neighborhood and all you do is complain about the new residents, moaning about how rude we are, while being quite rude and judgemental themselves. A pizza place like L’inizio should be allowed to sell beer and wine for the patio. This is not a bar. It is not rowdy. It is not loud. I have eaten on the back patio many times and there is never more than one or two other people. Quietly eating pizza. Nobody is ever going to go to L’inizio to get drunk or misbehave. I have lived above bars in NYC before. You know what you get when you live on a commercial strip 1 or 2 floors above street level? You get noise. Of course.

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SICK OF NIMBY'S

If he’s stressed, it’s because of NIMBYS harassing his life and calls from Pat O’Brien every other day. He’s sick of the lies and the conspiring against him. I often spend more at L’inizio too because I go for the wine and order a side salad to share. I consider L’inizio more of a “treat yo self” than an “eat your slices and go” type place. The food is too good to avoid IMO.

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Harry

It’s hilarious that Pat O Brien is a liquor license attorney but acts like this on behalf of the CB2. This guy talks out of both sides of his mouth, taking money and a lot of it from restaurants and bars seeking licenses than acts like the bad.cop on them after he cashed there check.
He’s just like his friend Joe Connley it’s time these guys get on with there business and stop bothering the independent businessman.
It’s so hard doing business and making money in this city and some crooked lawyer like Pat OBrien has to bully the pizza guy.

Reply
Maria

I’m confused. Does Sunnyside and Woodside not have apartment buildings directly behind establishments also? YES! Why is one allowed and not the other, this seems like a personal issue

Reply
Jon

stick-in-the-mud
n
informal
a staid or predictably conservative person who lacks initiative or imagination
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014

Reply
Huh 2

I have also seen alcohol consumed in the backyard. Well known in the community that the establishment does not discourage it.

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Anonymous

Wow. If they were flagrantly violating the agreement that’s one thing but to make an accusation in this manor and then follow it with such a ramification seems to be abusing ones authority. If you are going to make such an accusation as Mr. obrien did you should expect push back and be able to back your claims with facts. If he actually saw a customer being served a beer/wine in the front and then taking it out back were it was consumed then he should have no problem stating such in detail. However if he thinks he saw something that means nothing and by being defensive and fact-less it’s quite possible he saw what he wanted to see which would indicate bias. Now, If in three years a customer took his drink outback without their knowledge/permission that doesn’t mean they are allowing such behaviors. So to deny with no complaints, no facts, no evidence seems arbitrary at best and corrupt at worst. If this guy wants to do something real for the community he can get the NYS Parks Police to start enforcing the myriad of laws/rules that are violated everyday in Gantry Park like alcohol consumption, marijuana use, dogs in the dog free section, etc.

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Mike B

I have also seen the backyard being used however I can not confirm if there was alcohol consumed. Either way the backyard space was not to be used. Having said that, I am 100% against the policy of not being able to use the backdoor space as I believe it hurts the local businesses and I am no fan of CB2 at this time.

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SICK OF NIMBY'S

L’inizio has permission to use the yard, but not to serve alcohol. People can drink non-alcoholic beverages though. I’m positive that’s what the NIMBY’s saw and falsely reported without having all the facts. I know Tom and have asked if I can take my wine from inside the restaurant and sit at a table outside and he said “no” apologetically. This is absolute BULLSH*T!!!

Reply
Mike

wtf!!!!, who the F**! is Pat O’Brien?? we are not in the prohibition area!, Pat just quit please you are not representing the community you are supposed to serve.

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Anonymous

Blaze is a douche as both RE broker and proprietor of this space.
While I disagree with CB2’s general policy on backyard use on Vernon Blaze’s behavioru (and missed meetings before) clearly do not do him any favour

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Anonymous

Sorry to hear this. Tom is an outstanding member of the community with a real respectable business. The community board has been too tough on restaurants because some the bars and clubs on Vernon have made themselves a nuisance with loud music and groups of smokers yelling in front of the buildings that line Vernon. Additionally there where abuse complaints from businesses like lounge 47 years back

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Anonymous

Lounge 47 had lots of problems with their back yard space and one neighbor. If the neighbor thought the customers eating in the back were being too loud he would take his hose and spray them with water from his side. Not kidding. They use to keep a video recorder behind the bar to catch his acts. It was ongoing for years and I actually observed on more then one occasion the noise levels that set him off and it was obvious it was the neighbor and not the bar that was the problem.

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Anon

For your info I worked for lounge 47 when they first opened and the patrons were not loud,obnoxious or disrespectful at all! Mr. William Garrett would hose my customers in the middle of the afternoon! Ugh he was dispicable and had no respect whatsoever!

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hmm

this back and forth reminds me of My Cousin Vinny. Stand at the back of the room and ask Pat O to tell you what’s in your cup. See if he gets it right!

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