Buddha Bar Has Been Approved

courtesy Buddha Bar LondonA resident reports on yesterday’s State Liquor Authority hearing about Buddha Bar’s plan to open in the former Megu space at 62 Thomas. (The photo, of owner Stefan Stefanov, is courtesy Buddha Bar London.)

The Full Board of the State Liquor Authority voted yesterday to grant a liquor license to Buddha Bar—providing the owners abide by rigorous stipulations. SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley and Commissioner Greeley Ford approved the license contingent on the following:

• Hours of operation: Sunday through Thursday: 4 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.  Friday and Saturday: 4 p.m. -12 a.m. [Elmwood Ventures LLC had asked for 4 p.m.-1 a.m. on weekdays; 4 p.m.- 2 a.m. weekends.]
• Strict observance of the recommendations of audio engineering consultant Acoustilog, including limiters that lock speaker volume at 5 decibels below the city’s legal limit. Additional sound proofing of air conditioning ducts.
• No lines or velvet ropes outside.
• No party promoters.
• No private parties.
• No dancing—either by patrons or entertainers.
• Continued communication with the Community Board regarding neighborhood concerns, and designation of a Buddha Bar liaison responsible for dealing with complaints.

Owner Stefan Stefanov, who currently owns and manages Buddha Bar London, also promised in his Public Interest Statement that he would:

• Insure his staff “followed each and every recommendation as outlined [by Acoustilog consultant Alan Fierstein] and permit an inspection by Acoustilog to insure that the recommendations were followed exactly.”
• “In the very unlikely event that any of my neighbors are still disturbed by the restaurant, then I will retain Mr. Fierstein to do a soundcheck in each neighbor’s apartment to determine what steps will be necessary to remedy the problem.”
• Employing All Seasons Protection “to insure that at no time do either the interior or exterior of the restaurant become a source of irritation to the neighbors.”
• All Seasons Protection will provide “traffic agents…to deter idling or double parked cars and to alleviate any traffic congestion.”
• Construction of “a 400-square-foot vestibule in the very front of these premises; the vestibule will serve as a waiting area for patrons exiting the restaurant… [and] will eliminate the possibility [of noise escaping to the street] since it will have an exterior (sidewalk door) and an interior door.”
• “My cleaning crew will sweep the sidewalks three times a day (even when the restaurant is not open).”
• Use of the space during the day for “sushi and cooking classes, yoga/Pilates instruction, self-defense classes, mixology seminars…. I am committed to ‘giving back’ and I believe very strongly in making Buddha Bar Restaurant a strong thread in the community fabric.”

Stefanov added, “I personally will stand to lose in excess of $2.2 million that I have invested in these premises if my restaurant ever operated contrary to what I have stipulated.”

As you may remember, Community Board 1 unanimously opposed the Buddha Bar liquor license in April. State Senator Daniel Squadron, State Assembly Member Deborah Glick, and City Council Member Margaret Chin all wrote letters to the SLA in opposition to the license. In July, after a 500-foot hearing, SLA Administrative Law Judge Raymond Di Luglio ruled that granting a liquor license to Buddha Bar was “not in the public interest.”

The Buddha Bar team came under intense questioning by Chairman Bradley and Commissioner Ford at a Full Board hearing on September 27.  (You can watch a video of the fireworks online on the SLA site.  The Elmwood Ventures LLC case is between 2:31:00 and 3:10:37.) The Full Board put the case over till October 11 so that it could consider Buddha Bar’s Public Interest Statement rebuttal.  At today’s hearing, Chairman Bradley said he found Mr. Fierstein “credible” in his demonstration of how Acoustilog’s proposed system would combat noise leakage.

Commissioner Ford foresaw that “sooner or later, [another restaurant] is going to be in there. I think this is the [community’s] best opportunity to control it, get a handle on it.” Ford warned Buddha Bar’s team: “If you guys come back with any violations, I’m going to be as hard on you as I possibly can be.”

It’s difficult to get the SLA to deny a license to an establishment that has never operated at a proposed location. So we’re pleased that we succeeded in winning so many stipulations, which we hope will protect the quality of life in Tribeca. We appreciate the concessions Buddha Bar’s proprietors have made and we will be watching closely to make sure they keep their promises. We thank our elected officials and the members of Community Board 1, particularly member Jeff Ehrlich, for their support.

The SLA has archived video of yesterday’s hearing should turn up at http://www.sla.ny.gov/live-and-archived-media.