April 25, 2014 By Christian Murray
A Long Island City resident has started an online petition calling on Community Board 2 to allow restaurants and bars along Vernon Blvd to use their backyard space.
The petition is in response to the Community Board 2’s almost uniform denial of Vernon Blvd restaurants from using their backyard space. The board, which tries to represent the wishes of the community, is able to keep the backyards closed by making it a requirement in order for them to get their liquor license.
Restaurants such as Alobar, Blend, Lounge 47, Corner Bistro and L’inizio are just a few that have been told that in order to get their liquor license they must keep their yards closed.
Renee Katsaitis, who put the petition together, said she is fed up hearing from business owners that they are not permitted to open their backyard space. She and her friends like going to the bars and restaurants and want to sit outside and enjoy a drink and some food.
“It angers me that the neighborhood is being held hostage by one person or one group,” Katsaitis said. “I am organizing this so people are heard,” she said. “I also want to make sure that people show up at the meetings and fight back.”
Katsaitis, who has already generated about 75 signatures since posting her petition yesterday, said that those who are for outdoor seating have been at a disadvantage. “It’s not like they market these hearings,” she said. “There aren’t any posters put up or notices put under people’s doors,” she said. “It is not circulated via social media or on the Internet.”
Meanwhile, she said, the naysayers have ties to the community board and know well ahead of time.
Two Vernon Blvd restaurant owners, who have been denied the use of their yard, were unaware that there was a petition in the works.
Jeff Blath, who owns Alobar, said I guess “the regular people have had enough, and that they want their voices heard.”
Blath recently tried to get around the Community Board by taking his application—that would permit him to use his small outdoor space–to the State Liquor Authority. He had a hearing and lost based on the recommendation of the community board. (see hearing below)
Katsaitis said that it isn’t fair that struggling businesses are not able to use their yards and are paying rent on a rear yard that is “essentially growing weeds.”
Note this is not an endorsement of the petition
Alobar Hearing (March 25, 2014)