Feb. 3, 2014 By Christian Murray
Two business owners with plans to open restaurants on Vernon Boulevard are likely to face some wary residents when a public hearing is held next month concerning the fate of their liquor license applications.
Tom Blaze, a Long Island City resident, has applied for a beer & wine license for a pizzeria at 47-23 Vernon Blvd, where he also wants to use his backyard space. Meanwhile, David Shifeh seeks a full liquor license for a Mediterranean restaurant to be located at 10-17 Jackson Avenue–the corner of Vernon Blvd and Jackson Ave.
Liquor licenses are not easily obtained on or near Vernon Blvd—and there have been several pitched battles between residents and business owners in the past decade over their issuance. Many businesses have been forced to accept the loss of backyard space or have had to limit their business hours in order to get such a license.
The red-hot debate about liquor licenses surfaced about a decade ago and ultimately led to a popular bar/restaurant (the now defunct Lounge 47, at 47-10 Vernon Blvd) being denied the use of its backyard space, following a litany of noise complaints.
Since then, businesses such as Woodbines (which now occupies the former Lounge 47 location), Alobar and Blend have agreed not to use their backyard space in order to get a license. Some bars/restaurants have also agreed to cut back their hours.
Last week, Blaze, who intends to open his pizzeria in a few months, came prepared to a Community Board 2 committee meeting to discuss his wine and beer license application.
Blaze told the committee that the landlords on his block reached out to their respective tenants and found no one with any concern about his use of the backyard space or his beer/wine license application. He brought with him to the committee meeting the signatures of those landlords.
Blaze told the committee that he wants to be able to use the backyard so he can offer the space as a place where families can have pizza parties. “Nothing beats a pizza party, where kids can make their own pizza,” he said.
Blaze plans to set up two communal tables with up to 20 seats in the backyard. He said he would close up the space by 10 pm every night.
But the committee—which often makes its recommendation at a given meeting– said it was not able to render a decision given the pizzeria’s Vernon Blvd location.
“That is not going to happen at this committee [tonight]. There is too much fire down there over this with this issue,” said Pat O’Brien, who led the Community Board 2 City Services Committee meeting.
O’Brien said the board needed feedback from the community—through a public hearing–before a recommendation could be made.
Restaurants seek the support of Community Board 2 in their quest to get a liquor license, since it has significant influence with the State Liquor Authority, which has the final say.
Meanwhile, a representative of David Shifeh, who seeks a full liquor license at 10-17 Jackson Avenue, was told that too he would be subject to a hearing next month.
“Many people think there are too many liquor licenses on Vernon Blvd and it is turning into Chelsea,” O’Brien said at the meeting last week. “This too will be going to the [same] hearing.”
A firm date for the hearing has not yet been set.
Meanwhile, Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley, who has refereed many bruising encounters between residents and business owners over the years said: “We are concerned as to what people think…and we have to respect people’s quality of life.”
However, Conley said: “We are never going to say no [to a business] out of hand.”