It stands to reason that after a night of drinking at a karaoke bar revelers are going to continue warbling “Don’t Stop Believing” in the streets on their journey home. The more drunk they are, the louder they’ll be. Variations on this statement were repeated multiple times at a recent discussion about Karaoke Boho‘s impending relocation on the Lower East Side.
Located in an already bar-laden area of the LES dubbed Hell Square, Karaoke Boho is planning to move from 196 Orchard Street to 152 Orchard, about a block and a half away; they need a new home now that the building’s owner, Ben Shaoul, plans to tear down the existing structure to make way for a new 10-story building. Their new location would be in the former Tammany Hall, which closed about six months ago after Community Board 3 refused to endorse a renewed liquor license.
At his new establishment, Ae Sook Choi plans to serve Mexican-American food similar to the basic wings/nachos/tacos menu at one of his other bars, Karaoke Nemo. Utilizing the cellar, ground floor and mezzanine of the old concert hall, the restaurant/bar will seat a total of 126 people. Food will be served to all 17 private karaoke rooms, with several additional tables outside the rooms as well. There will be 20 television screens for karaoke.
“It’s not a karaoke lounge, it’s a karaoke restaurant, which you don’t see that often,” said Choi’s lawyer, Frank Palillo, at a Community Board 3 SLA Committee meeting Monday night. Choi also owns Karaoke Nemo at 54 East 13th Street and Karaoke St. Marks at 6 Saint Marks Place. They all have a squeaky clean record except for two complaints against Boho Karaoke in 2011, one for noise and one for the illegal blocking of an exit. Still, the karaoke bar’s new locale will be about twice as big as their current place, which had some neighbors up in arms.
Members of the Dwellers say the block has been much quieter without Tammany Hall’s concerts and other live events causing noise and altercations on the street, so they were a little unnerved to hear that a karaoke bar was seeking permission to open with a full liquor license permitting them to serve until 4 a.m. They pointed out that Choi’s other bars have drink specials including inexpensive shots, which they said would be a nightmare for an establishment as large as 152 Orchard.
“We cannot as a community continue to have a situation that gets out of hand,” said Dwellers member Diem Boyd, adding that it gets to be a “real problem, because once [the karaoke singers] leave the room, it spills out onto the street.” It was noted that Boho Karaoke’s concept of renting private rooms for a set number of hours tends to cause large groups of people to leave the building all at once.
As a compromise, the Community Board 3 SLA Committee voted to endorse a beer and liquor license instead, saying that if they could operate successfully at that location without any incidents then they could come back at some point down the line and ask for an upgrade to a full liquor license. LES Dwellers member Sara Romanoski said she hopes that Karaoke Boho can be successful serving just beer and wine; she would prefer to see the neighborhood shift away from bars with late liquor licenses. “Hopefully that will help bring the intoxication levels down,” she said.