A local panel has rejected a liquor license for an avant-garde music hall out of concern that the venue is a nightclub in disguise.
Community Board 2 denied a liquor license for Roulette — a Manhattan arts center that will move into the YWCA building on Third and Atlantic avenues with a grand opening in September featuring Lou Reed — because some members said the venue failed to address community fears.
“I’m just concerned that private events at the theater will bring promoters,” said board member Andrew Lastowecky. “This is a space for 600 people, and that scares the heck out of me.”
But supporters say the board gave the edgy Roulette a raw deal, especially when other theaters including DUMBO’s Galapagos Art Space and St. Ann’s Warehouse have licenses that allow in-seat swilling.
“Roulette is bringing so much to this neighborhood, so much culture,” said Karen Zebulon, who owns Gumbo, a kids’ store near the theater. “It’s unfortunate that this was their first introduction to the neighborhood.”
At a public hearing last Monday, the board argued over whether allowing Roulette to serve liquor would bring drunken and rowdy concertgoers to the community — which is already rattled about the Barclays Center and at least two nightclubs slated to open next year.
Roulette officials argue that they’re turning the YWCA’s long neglected theater into a cultural center, but that they need a liquor license for galas and private events.
“This is not a bar,” said Roulette director Jim Staley. “We’re not going to be a problem to the community.”
YWCA executive director Martha Kamber said that Roulette — a renowned 30-year-old indie venue — will create a hopping cultural corner when it debuts on Sept. 15. The theater’s 20-year lease requires a midnight curfew and security to deter people from loitering after performances.
“I’m not quite sure what all the hoopla is about,” Kamber said. “We thought Roulette would be a great addition to neighborhood.”
Boerum Hill resident Eric Albert said the theater hasn’t done enough to convince locals that it won’t become a party zone.
“In the past when the Y leased this space, it was very loud, boisterous and spilled out on the street,” Albert said. “I just don’t want that in my neighborhood.”
Kamber confirmed that people used to rent out the Y’s theater for wild parties, but that the new permanent tenant has strict rules to prevent noise.
A neighbor of Roulette’s former stage in SoHo told The Brooklyn Paper that the venue was anything but disorderly.
“They had a respectful, wrapped crowd, so we never had any complaints,” said Heather Wagner, a curator at a gallery next door.
But Roulette’s assurances weren’t enough for the community board, which failed to pass two motions to approve a liquor license.
First, the board made a motion to recommend the license, but with beverages limited to the lobby. Then members made another motion to approve the license with the requirement that Roulette consult with the State Liquor Authority on where booze should be served.
Neither was voted on.
The community board rejection of any liquor license is only advisory; Roulette will still take its request to the State Liquor Authority. In the meantime, CB2 District Manager Rob Perris said a solution will likely be reached soon.
“The theater is a real asset to the arts community and I would like to see something worked out,” Perris said.
Roulette [509 Atlantic Ave. between Third Avenue and Nevins Street in Boerum Hill, (212) 219-8242]. For info, visit www.roulette.org.
©2011 Community News Group
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