A landlord wants to replace a Greenpoint dive bar with a Hungarian restaurant, but neighbors and nuns from a school on the block say Newell Street is not the place for nightlife.
Peter Jakab envisions a high-end cafe dishing out Central European cuisine at the site of the raucous Continental bar, a venue whose lease expired last December.
“I want to raise up the level of the tenant, clean up the place, and make it something the neighborhood would be proud of,” said Jakab, who also owns the Manhattan Avenue venue St. Vitus Bar.
But neighbors are wary about any business that serves alcohol steps from the St. Stanislaus Kostka convent and school.
“It’s not a good idea to be located across the street from our homes, a convent, a Catholic School, and a church!” said Newell Street resident Agnes Freulich. “This is a children’s zone!”
Two-dozen anxious Greenpoint residents accepted Jakab’s offer to serve only beer and wine — not spirits — and cap capacity at 74 people at a Monday meeting at St. Stanislaus Kostka School on Driggs Avenue.
But neighbors balked at his request to keep the restaurant open seven days a week and close at midnight on weekdays, urging Jakab to stop serving diners at 9 pm and shut down by 10 pm. Jakab rejected that deal — at least for now.
“I may accept that but I have a business I’m trying to run,” he said. “There have been 90 years worth of renovations and build-outs on the site, and we need to make our expenses back.”
Jakab’s proposed Hungarian restaurant isn’t the first business to take heat from neighbors — Newell Street residents had lots of problems with the previous pub that operated in the storefront.
The state granted a liquor license to the Continental in 1994, before laws prohibited bars from opening within 200 feet of schools or houses of worship.
The watering hole attracted the neighborhood’s Polish population but only opened three days per week. Neighbors and nuns blamed the bar for nearly 18 years of brawls, car break-ins, and lewd behavior on the block — claiming cops did little to help curb the problems.
“One year there was a huge fight across the street, we called the cops and they asked, ‘Do either of the men have a gun or a knife?’ ” said Sister Joanne Goscicki. “The patron was smacking another man’s head against the sidewalk! We realized calling the police was not going to help.”
Jakab promised that his new business venture would be nothing like the Continental, but some residents said the proposed Hungarian eatery could turn out being worse if it operates every day.
“You’re going to prolong the suffering that these people have experienced,” said Ryan Buck.
The planned eatery would not be able to serve liquor because of its proximity to a church and a school, but beer and wine could be on the menu, pending state approval.
A State Liquor Authority spokesman said that he has not received the Newell Street application, but promised officials would closely scrutinize any application located near a church or a school.
The conflict is one of several neighborhood campaigns against restaurant noise in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
Residents successfully opposed a proposed nightclub on N. First Street last month, and Community Board 1 has pressured several restaurants to remove illegal benches and outdoor tables from sidewalks in its War on Brunch.
But the board doesn’t always say no to booze.
In 2009, CB1 signed off on Metropolitan Avenue’s Custom Wine Bar despite protests by some neighbors. The board — which approves the vast majority of new liquor applications in North Brooklyn — will discuss Jakab’s liquor license application at a May 31 hearing.