Box in Late Bid for Booze License Survival

by Gregory M. White

Sept. 24, 2008

The Box, made famous by Lindsey Lohan’s table dancing exploits and its appearance on Gossip Girl, beat back its booze closure Tuesday night.

Community Board 3 left the Chrystie St. establishment with space to act after area residents signed an adjournment delaying decision on the bar’s liquor license until next month’s meeting.

At last Monday’s committee meeting on alcohol licensing, The Box seemed doomed as residents of the neighboring 187 Chrystie St. called for its closure. Several neighbors cited prolonged complaints against The Box including noise violations attributed to an internal atmosphere that is more cabaret than bar.

But after a unanimous decision by the board last week to deny The Box its liquor license renewal, the bar and its neighbors negotiated an adjournment that allows the nightclub another month to reform, or face losing its liquor license.

Randy Weiner, part of The Box’s ownership team along with Broadway heir Simon Hammerstein, was asked after the meeting last week to negotiate by the neighboring 187 Chrystie St. owner, Charles Cohen.

Cohen said that Weiner was “the only rational, negotiable one,” and that “he has a conversation and honors his word.”

Cohen, who has lived in the neighborhood since the 1960s, said he initiated the negotiations in the spirit of fairness citing improvements The Box has made since it was confronted over noise and environment violations in 2006. Cohen also said that the neighborhood, while much different than when he moved there, still had a reputation for rowdiness and that his residents had to take this into consideration.

Cohen said by applying legal action against The Box, his residents have a greater chance of achieving their goal of a more peaceful living environment.

“If the liquor authority rejected the community board’s decision and granted their license, we would have no bargaining chip,” Cohen said.

Weiner said that the community board acted as a mediator in the process and that Susan Stetzer, district manager, was involved in the negotiations. He said he was pleased with the adjournment and his neighbors’ willingness to negotiate.

Marc Ciolli, a resident at 187 Chrystie St. and attendee at last week’s meeting, spoke in favor of the adjournment.

Ciolli said that the list of grievances was long including overwhelming noise invading his apartment, cars and cabs stacked two deep on four-lane Chrystie St., and the frequent appearance of vomit in front of his building.

“If they can fix it, hallelujah,” he said.

While a majority of the attendees at last week’s meeting signed the adjournment, Mary Anne Inouye, also a resident of 187 Chrystie St, disagreed with the decision. She said at Tuesday’s meeting that the site was, “impossible to fix because of the building’s age,” and that the noise pollution could not be stopped. She also noted the appearance of vomit in front of her building last Friday evening.

Inouye said the decision by her fellow residents was strange.

“I think it’s some kind of polite gesture,” Inouye said, skeptical of the agreement and the parties involved.  “If it was a political thing, I would say follow the money,”

According to the adjournment, The Box has one month to comply with the residents’ demands for reforms. The two parties have “begun working productively together to create a mutually agreeable stipulation to resolve [our] differences,” according to the adjournment. The matter is scheduled for settlement at the October meeting of the full board.

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