Exhausted by the relentless proliferation of bars and clubs, a group of Hell's Kitchen residents have united to fight nightlife establishments in their neighborhood. The Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Task Force to Fight Bars, lead by Kathleen Treat, a 25-year resident and public member of Community Board 4's Quality of Life Committee, wants to further educate the community board about the way residents feel about their neighborhood being turned into a raucous frat house. "The issue is what's called over-saturation of liquor-serving establishments, that's the Albany phrase," explained Treat. "We just have way too many bars here."
Despite reports to the contrary, Treat insists that if the Community Board were more proactive in voicing their concerns and not recommending licenses, that the State Liquor Authority would concede to their requests. "There's a misunderstanding floating around for many years that the SLA blanketly okays everything, no matter what the CB says, and that's not really true," says Treat. "The SLA does listen to Community Boards and if the Community Board says, 'No, we don't want a bar,' chances are the SLA will take that seriously."
Case in point, CB 4 aggressively battled against a license for the gay sports bar Boxers and the SLA ultimately sided with the community. However, there are 453 "On-Premises" licenses issued in the 10019 zip code and another 454 in the 10036 zip code, the two zip codes that cover the neighborhood.
Some of these establishments include sit down restaurants and corner pizza parlors, but given the high numbers it's clear the area is awash with booze. By comparison, the 10028 zip code, which covers the bar-dense UES in the 80s and 90s, has just 106 "On-Premises" licenses. We reached out to the State Liquor Authority for their take on the SLA/CB relationship but have yet to hear back.
For Treat, the root of the problem is the neighborhood's landlords, who she says prefer renting to boozy establishments because they're able to afford rising rent rates. "There's a bar around the corner from me, Dalton's, I think they pay $40,000 per month rent," a sum Treat says couldn't possibly be met by a Mom-and-Pop establishment. "[Landlords] never have the community's interest at heart; none of them live here, they don't give a damn," seethed Treat. "They live in Westchester, Florida. They don't care about the neighborhood."
The Task Force hopes that by convincing the Community Board not to recommend renewals or new licenses, that landlords will do right by the community's wishes. "It's a long shot," Treat concedes. "But it's become such an issue that we're willing to work."
Long shot puts it mildly. Rents in both Manhattan and Brooklyn have been rapidly increasing, especially in trendier and up-and-coming neighborhoods that attract younger tenants with money to burn. In turn, the establishments willing to shell out big bucks tend to skew towards chains or, as Treat points out, high revenue establishments like bars and clubs. By and large, Manhattan's landlords aren't the types to miss out on the dollar signs flashing before their eyes, despite yearning from folks who miss the good/bad 'ole days before the city became the homogeneous stew it is now.
For any interested parties, the Task Force has their first meeting today at 4 p.m. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.