The EMM Group, which operates the restaurant and nightlife venue comprised of The General, Bow, and Finale at 199 Bowery (formerly Crash Mansion), caught some heavy flack at last night's Community Board 3 liquor licensing committee meeting, getting an earful from angry neighbors and the board itself for excessive noise and alleged non-compliance with previous agreements.
Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm, owners the EMM Group, were seeking an alteration in their liquor license to allow "dancing" and "DJs" on the main floor of the venue, given some previous difficulties in sound proofing their basement "jazz lounge." The group was hoping to allay fears and frustrations of residents who live in the condominiums above the restaurant space at 199 Bowery. But residents in two neighboring apartments say they've already filed a lawsuit against the 6,000 square foot "nightlife entertainment venue."
One of the condo board members complained, "the community is so offended, so hurt. [EMM Group] is spending so much money that they don't care what people think." Another resident complained that they were disturbed by the noise on the weekends, which can be heard even on the sixth floor. Obviously the "state-of-the-art Void Acoustic sound system—the highest quality sound system found in a Manhattan nightclub" described in the EMM Group's press release is worth every penny!
This isn't the first time EMM Group has had trouble with the community. Though the space previously held Crash Mansion—a club which EMM Group supporters described as having "thuggish" crowds—neighbors say they've been complaining about the new venue since construction began six months ago. In late October, after trying to appease neighbors upset about construction noise with hotel rooms down the street, EMM Group applied for an after-hours work permit that would allow construction to continue until 12 a.m. for nearly two weeks in order to open for a Halloween night party organized by Heidi Klum. But EMM Group had not applied for a cabaret license, and had previously agreed to "play ambient background music only, consisting of recorded music in the bakery and recorded music and DJs in the restaurant on the ground floor."
Nevertheless, the space soon appeared to be operating quite obviously as a nightclub. According to the Community Board, there were 27 complaints to 311 about 199 Bowery in November and December. And the owners have been on shaky ground with the Community Board from the get-go. Their initial pitch to the Community Board was approved because the venue was presented as
"a full‐service restaurant, consisting of Latin Asian fusion small plates on the ground floor and basement with a bakery café on the ground floor, both floors serving food during all hours of operations.. It will play ambient background music only, consisting of recorded music in the bakery and recorded music and DJs in the restaurant on the ground floor, and recorded music, DJs and live music, specifically live jazz, in the basement but will not have promoted events or any event at which a cover fee will be charged... patron dancing will be in the basement only if permitted by law..."
Neighbors also been angry that the venue's "nightlife entertainment" part opened so long before the restaurant—The General, which debuted last month. And the promised bakery has yet to open. Community Board committee chairwoman Alex Militano noted last night that the venue had multiple ticketed events, had only opened the space as a restaurant a few weeks ago, and had not opened the bakery, which had been pitched to the board as an integral part of the business plan. The alleged bait and switch is only amplified by the fact that their basement "jazz lounge" will soon be overseen by Travis Bass, a noted DJ and party promoter. As the condo board president from 187 Bowery said last night, "The phrase 'don't piss on my leg and tell me it's rain,' comes to mind."
Though the EMM Group wanted to move the downstairs DJ lounge to the ground floor, ostensibly to appease community complaints, the community and the board committee were firmly opposed last night. As the Lowdown states, "Some committee members were reluctant to approve the alterations because they said it would basically legitimize the EMM Group's illegal operations." After over two hours of frustrated deliberation with the community and the board, EMM Group withdrew their application.