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No ‘More’

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“Mussels” aren’t the problem, but “More” just might be — especially if it includes outdoor seating.

Backed by a boisterous crowd hoping to keep their neighborhood peaceful and quiet, a local board voted against allowing an outdoor cafe to open on the corner of 80th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Neighbors fear that Mussels and More’s plan to bring al fresco dining to the corner that once housed Canteena restaurant will return them to the bad old days, when debauchery ruled the night.

“This summer was the best summer the residents of 80th Street ever had,” said one man, who claimed that, with no restaurant on the corner, “We didn’t have kids hanging around our stoops, we didn’t have people smoking pot or urinating. We didn’t have 3 am fights waking us up.”

Residents added that the narrow sidewalk plus a sidewalk cafe outside the restaurant wouldn’t allow passersby to, well, pass by.

“There are a number of people on the block who have difficulty traversing the block, and that’s with the entire span,” one woman said. “How is this going to affect people in wheelchairs and with strollers?”

Residents also pointed out that, as proposed, the sidewalk café would extend on either side of the entrance to the apartments above the restaurant, meaning that those who lived there would have to walk past diners to get in and out of their homes, something that Zoning Committee Chairman Steve Harrison called, “Almost an embarrassing situation.”

And, that doesn’t even take taking out the trash into account.

“So, residents will have to go around the café to bring out their garbage,” remarked board member Doris Cruz.

But, restaurant owner Jim Bantis, who also owns the building, insisted that his new establishment would be a family place that would benefit everyone.

“I want to bring prosperity to the community and my family,” he said. “In a time of economic depression, I didn’t want it to be another store that sat vacant for two or three years, so I took on this project that I hope will be fruitful for everybody.”

Noise will not be an issue, he added.

“I have tenants, so it’s not in my interest,” Bantis stressed.

Ultimately, board members decided to recommend that the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs not grant the sidewalk café license unless the plans are revised to remove the seven tables “closest to the residential portion of the block,” with 22 members voting in favor of the resolution, and seven against. The board’s vote is only advisory.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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