Opening a new bar or restaurant in New York City has become an increasingly litigious affair, one for which our New York City liquor license attorneys recommend extensive prior planning.
Case-in-point: Attempts to transform an old, 8,000 square-foot warehouse in the Gowanus neighborhood into a venue that could host family-friendly activities by day and adult-oriented entertainment by night.
Residents are fighting back, suing the city’s Buildings Department in order to halt the renovations that they say will effectively “destroy” the atmosphere of a tree-lined community that is primarily zoned for residential purposes.
The former warehouse’s entrance is on a street that has been zoned residential. However, at the rear, the property is zoned manufacturing. The new owners are hoping to establish a “playhouse” that would host events such as music classes for young children during the day, and concerts for the over-21 crowd at night. The new owners had hoped to have a soft opening sometime this winter, according to The New York Daily News.
However, a law firm representing residents say the city’s Buildings Department failed to investigate the potential zoning issues, and further have ignored their complaints, merely accepting the word of the developer. Residents fear excessive noise and nuisance from the nighttime crowd, and say the daytime youth programming is nothing more than a “Trojan horse” intended to shove the rest of the project through the pipeline.
Meanwhile, the developer has shot back that the proper permits were all pulled and the warehouse itself is zoned commercially.
Cases like this are becoming more commonplace, with zoning highlighted as the primary issue and the Buildings Department seen as an especially easy target in these cases.
The same kind of scenario unfolded several months ago in the fight over sidewalk cafes. Restaurants have been forced to prove that their sidewalk seating areas comply with local zoning restrictions and that those seats are on private property or that the business has obtained a zoning exemption.
All prospective restaurant and bar owners need to make sure they are bringing on qualified legal help when they are planning the opening of their venue. In general, sometimes people can have a hard time with change – even positive changes. So the sad fact is, you must all but expect that you will be hassled about your opening — particularly if you serve alcohol or operated an adult-oriented establishment.
Ideally, you would open in a neighborhood where residents are going to welcome you. That’s the whole point, as these are individuals you hope to serve. That’s why in some cases, our first approach is to try tactful public relations, reaching out to your neighbors and attempting to address their concerns directly.
A NYC liquor license attorney can also help you plan in advance to try to avoid zoning and licensing issues before you are deeply invested. By establishing that legal relationship at the outset, we’ll be in the best position to help if challenges later arise.
The Wright Law Firm is a business law firm located in Midtown Manhattan. Call (212) 619-1500 for a confidential consultation.
Gowanus residents sue city Buildings Department to prevent massive ‘nightclub’ plans from becoming a reality, Aug. 2, 2013, By Sasha Goldstein, New York Daily News
More Blog Entries:
NYC: New Procedures for Place of Assembly Permits for Restaurants, Aug. 16, 2013, New York City Restaurant Lawyer Blog