You don't have to go home, but you can't stay out here, says Assemblywoman Joan Millman, who quietly introduced a bill last month that would amend the alcoholic beverage control law to require bars with roofs and backyards to corral everyone inside at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends. Once inside, the patrons would be required to read quietly, work on their needlepoint, or just think about what they've done.
The bill is specifically targeting bars in urban areas with one million or more inhabitants, and would require owners to get a permit to have waiter service. Also, no amplified music would be permitted. (And no salty language or skirts above the knee!) Millman's chief of staff says the bill was drafted in response to concerns from residents in Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens, and tells the Wall Street Journal, "I have a staff member who spends about one-third of her working areas dealing with noisy bars."
Earlier today we spoke with Dave Pollack, co-owner of Gothamist favorite The Diamond in Greenpoint. He was shocked to hear about the bill, but told us, "Backyards have always been such a gray area. I had heard that the Community Board voted that they had to close at 10, but it's not enforced. I've had inspections where the Health Department didn't even go out there. Sometimes they do, which is how I learned that smoking is not actually allowed in the backyard. 25% of the space can be designated as a smoking area, and people cannot be eating or drinking while smoking in that area. These inspectors throw something new at you every time they come in."
Below, Pollack tells us what kind of damage the bill would do to his bottom line, and what he plans to do about it.
It doesn't surprise me someone's crusading for this but it's troubling to me because we close our yard at 11:30 during the week, and 12: 30 on the weekend. We created that time ourselves based on what we thought was reasonable, and we never get complaints from our neighbors. Seven months out of the year it wouldn't make any dent in our business, but the five months out of the year during which we make most of our money, May through September, it would make a huge dent, maybe ten percent of our sales. The back yard is really our biggest draw, besides the shuffleboard table. People want to stay out there as late as they can, and we're really strict about pulling them in when the time comes.
Pollack says he plans to reach out to other bars with backyards or roofs to get organized and fight this bill. We told him we'd happily join his army, and will show solidarity by chilling in The Diamond's unique backyard tonight, while the fun is still legal.