May 12, 2016 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 last night seeking permission for its patrons to drink alcohol in its rear yard.
Currently, L’inizio is permitted to sell wine and beer but its customers are not allowed to go to the back garden area to consume it.
Tom Blaze, the owner of L’inizio, presented the committee with nearly 2,000 signatures last night and told board members that everyday his customers ask him why they can’t drink in the rear yard. He said he tells them that the community board decided against it when he opened in 2014.
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 use his rear yard space in this manner is unlikely to be straight forward since this has been a contentious issue for years. Many Vernon Blvd. bars/restaurants are located next to apartments, and residents have to contend with noise.
When Blaze applied two years ago, 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, said that a public hearing will be held in Hunters Point within the next month to determine whether the community is comfortable with L’inizio using its backyard as a place where people are permitted to drink wine and beer.
O’Brien claimed, however, that L’inizio had already been allowing its customers to drink in the rear yard, in violation of its existing agreement. He said that he had seen people consuming alcohol in the backyard with his own eyes on at least two occasions.
Blaze refuted O’Brien’s claim and said he stops all customers from going outside with alcoholic beverages.
O’Brien was baffled by Blaze’s response and said his eyesight is good.
O’Brien acknowledged that the neighborhood was changing in terms of its views on outdoor space. He said that a public hearing would make it easier for the board to make a decision.
“There is a different atmosphere down there; it’s a different time than it was.”