A new bar-gallery hopes to open at 174 Rivington Street, but sexy parties hosted by the previous tenant, Red Velvet, have caused the State Liquor Authority to tie a hand behind the owner’s back.
Luca Carucci, owner of the bars 46 Grand in Soho and 667 Bar Gallery Lounge in Brooklyn (both now closed), is hoping to offer panini alongside displays of local artwork; he also wants to pour liquor until 4 a.m., but the SLA ruled last week he can only have a full liquor license to operate until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The Liquor Authority appeared to be swayed by Susan Stetzer, District Manager of Manhattan Community Board 3, who said there were issues with the owners of Red Velvet. Online reviews praise the now defunct bar for its charming concept of giving out free, liquor-infused cupcakes with its cocktails, but according to Stetzer the Community Board received repeated noise complaints. She said the board had a hard time figuring out what was going on at Red Velvet until it discovered the bar was hosting “promoted sex parties” where guests would enter and leave through the bar’s back entrance. Several residents of the building came to speak at the hearing and backed up Stetzer’s claims that Red Velvet was irresponsibly loud.
An invite to an event produced by Skin, which throws erotic parties for “like-minded people,” advertised “a night dedicated to the sexy show offs we all love to see! Skin GoGos, Body Painting by Anna and a special Lap Dance contest all night using ‘Skin” dollars’.”
Carucci and his business partner, Joseph Peraino, said they want to create a peaceful atmosphere in the small, narrow space at 174 Rivington Street, on what is largely a residential block. At a State Liquor Authority meeting last week, their attorney, Thomas McCallen, said the new owners envision a quiet lounge where artsy locals can view paintings, talk quietly and enjoy a few drinks.
He argued that having a 4 a.m. closing time would actually help maintain a sense of calm as patrons leave the bar. At that late hour, with all the bars closed, they would “dissipate naturally back into the community,” he said, rather than standing around on the sidewalk trying to decide where to go next.
Stetzer said she’s all for local businesses that provide a benefit to the community but criticized the new owners’ plans to sell “local artwork and expensive handbags,” saying the neighborhood is already saturated with such things.
The location is also close to a several schools, one of which appears to have an entrance within 200 feet of the bar. This would violate the SLA’s 200-foot rule, except that the principal told a spectator hired by the SLA that all of the “regularly used” entrances are actually far enough away.
For now, McCallen said, his clients have to assess the situation to see if they can make their lounge profitable despite the hours’ limitations. “After the meeting I said, ‘Alright, talk amongst yourselves, talk to your landlord,’ and haven’t heard back, so they are probably talking internally. They’re disappointed,” McCallen told Bedford + Bowery.