CB6 toasts Union Hall renewal - Decision supercedes committee’s earlier vote

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The state of Union Hall appears strong, as the bar’s liquor license renewal application was overwhelmingly approved by Community Board 6 last week.

At its May 14 meeting, board members turned aside the recommendation of their Land Use Committee, which, in rejecting the application, sided with some residents who argued that a bar on a residential block put an undue quality of life burden on residents.

Union Hall’s case was bolstered by the pro-bar crowd which filled Borough Hall to support the renewal application.

The board’s advisory recommendation will be taken into consideration by the New York State Liquor Authority, which has the final say on the matter.

Kevin Avanzato, Union Hall’s general manager, said the bar has done its best to accommodate its neighbors. “At the same time, we’re a business,” he noted.

He said the bar has agreed to meet with residents to address nascent concerns, but no dates have been set yet. The bar is also considering closing earlier on weekdays, Avanzato said.

Craig Hammerman, the board’s district manager, said the predominant complaint is not about the patrons inside the expansive Park Slope bar, but those who are outside.

“That is the frustrating aspect. It becomes a quality-of-life issue for the local police precinct,” he said. “The business is not technically responsible for the actions of the patrons [once outside].”

For those who have opposed the renewal, the board’s vote was a bitter shot to swallow.

“The community board, I think, has lost touch with its residents,” said David Smith, who lives directly behind the bar.

Smith, a pipe organist who has lived on Fifth Avenue since 1999, said the noise generated from the bar’s “industrial air conditioning” has long vexed him.

“They are willing to work things out as long as it makes them look good. If they are going to fix the air conditioning, don’t just put a piece of plywood over it,’ he said.

Smith said the problem is that the bar is open until 4 a.m., long after other businesses are closed. If they closed at midnight, he said, its presence would be more palatable.

“We would be delighted to keep Dr. Jekyll around—if only we could get a handle on Mr. Hyde,” Smith said.

Board member James Bernard said the bar has bent over backward to accommodate local residents—going so far as to equip its doorman with a cell phone to take complaints from residents bothered by cigarette smoke.

“What more can these people do?” he wondered.

Bernard took issue with Lou Sones, a board member and the owner of The Brazen Head, a bar on Atlantic Avenue. It was Sones who introduced the motion in committee to reject the license renewal.

“It looks bad for us if a competitor is trying to shut down another competitor,” Bernard said.

Union Hall and The Brazen Head are not competitors, Sones stressed. “We are not in the same neighborho­od.”

Still, Sones said, “it was probably better to recuse myself so people didn’t think I did it for selfish reasons.”

Doing so, he said, would have most likely served the opponents’ cause better, he admitted.

Sones said bars situated on residential blocks set a “dangerous precedent.”

But there is a silver lining, Sones said, pointing to the proposed monthly conciliatory meetings.

“Everyone won in this battle. If Union Hall sticks to their promise to meet with the community, I am glad about it,” he said.

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