Is a dance club a good thing or a bad thing for a neighborhood?
A Community Board 2 committee decided last Wednesday night that a dance club at the corner of Front and Old Fulton streets in lively DUMBO would be bad for the neighborhood, voting 5–2 to reject a cabaret license request by the owners of One Front restaurant.
The owner, Marcelo Pevida, sought the permit for his establishment so that he could offer dancing on the second floor. He claimed that the ground floor and mezzanine of the eatery, formerly the Asian-fusion restaurant Toro, but now serving American fare, would remain limited to dining.
But a majority of the members of CB2’s health, environment, and social services committee was persuaded by the opposite argument.
“I have lived in the neighborhood for 25 years and I have never objected to any new restaurant or establishment,” said resident Gary Van der Putten. “But what happens is that these kinds of places get cabaret licenses then, all of a sudden, they deteriorate into clubs.”
Others cited the Clinton Hill nightclub Reign and the notorious neighborhood Studio B club in Williamsburg as evidence.
But Pevida said that his club wouldn’t be like those.
“My restaurant is a benefit for our community,” Pevida said. “When I bought the building, it had been abandoned for three years. I want a cabaret license to improve my establishment for our community.”
The city’s prohibition-era cabaret law requires a special permit — plus more stringent fire and building codes — for any food or drinking establishment that wants to have more than two people dancing at any time.
But residents said that One Front is already too loud without legal dancing. One person said that the police had to be called over the weekend during what he called Pevida’s “two-day party till 4:30 am.”
But one person, Richard Mauro of the Fulton Ferry Business Association, defended Pevida, saying that entrepreneurs like him have turned the Old Fulton Street area from dicey to desirable.
“We full-heartedly support Marcelo,” Mauro said. “DUMBO has become a place to live and raise a family, and he has contributed to make our neighborhood a great place.”
“Did I miss something? What’s the benefit for the community that [he is] offering?” asked the committee’s chairman, John Harrison.
“To make a place to go dancing for the community,” Pevida replied.
“We don’t want to dance!” a resident retorted.
The rejection by the committee was not a surprise, giving the board’s stinginess with new liquor licenses. In fact, earlier this year, Borough President Markowitz told the board to be more liberal with such licenses.
Pevida will get to take his case to the full board, though that vote is only advisory. The Department of Consumer Affairs will make the final ruling.