LES lounge Fat Baby is in danger of losing its liquor license after Community Board 3’s SLA Committee recommended against its renewal last night.
Fat Baby, currently in the midst of an ownership transfer from battle-worn restaurateur Rob Shamlian to Sarid Drory of Artisinal, fancies itself a “rock and roll venue as well as a unique version of downtown NYC nightlife set in an LA inspired lounge setting” (now that’s a mouthful of a concept). But in the SLA committee’s eyes, the would-be lounge has turned into a multi-level dance club that isn’t sticking to the parameters of its liquor license.
That conclusion was helped along by several nearby residents who, at last night’s meeting, claimed the noisy patrons of the establishment were causing a nightly commotion on the sidewalks, ringing the buzzers to their apartments, and puking in the vestibule, thanks to alterations the bar owner made to the building’s entryway.
Daniel Tainow, who has lived at 112 Rivington Street with his wife in an apartment above Fat Baby for seven years, told the committee that the bar put a private addition on the entrance, taking away from the building’s trash storage space and preventing access to the heat and hot water systems for the building, sometimes forcing the landlord to wait for several hours to make repairs because she doesn’t have keys to the entrance and the bar’s management is slow to respond.
Even worse, said Tainow, the bar has a practice of ejecting problem patrons through what looks from the inside to be an emergency exit but in fact is a door that opens up into the area directly next to the entrance for the residential units. In their confusion, drunk club-goers have been known to buzz the residents in the middle of the night, and sometimes worse. “Usually it’s someone getting kicked out, so they’re drunk or aggressive or whatever,” said Tainow. “We found blood out there one time – we figure it was probably someone who was fighting who got kicked out.”
Tainow and his wife weren’t the only people who attended the meeting to complain; one local described Fat Baby as a pox on the neighborhood for the last five years. Sarah Romanoski of the LES Dwellers pointed out that when Fat Baby went before the committee last summer for change of ownership the committee stated the new owner would have to enforce the existing licensed method of operation. Since that time they’ve seen no change, she said.
“They’re authorized to do something that they’re completely not doing, which causes the problem,” she said, adding that the club has a dance floor, a stage for live music, and concerts scheduled through fall, all of which she said they do not have a license for. “It should be a restaurant, not a nightclub,” she told the committee. “It’s been 10 years. I think it’s been long enough with them harassing the neighborhood.”
The committee didn’t set any specific stipulations back when Fat Baby was first licensed in 2005, committee chair Alexandra Militano said, and consequently the committee members unanimously voted to recommend that the SLA revoke the bar’s license or hold the bar to the operations outlined in its current license, which states that Fat Baby is to be a lounge with food and background music and no DJs, dancing or live music.
Over the phone today Drory, the perspective buyer of Fat Baby and two of Shamlian’s other LES bars, Los Feliz and Spitzer’s Corner, told us he’s “not worried” about the committee’s decision. “It’s America,” he said, “so the committee can say whatever they want and nobody’s going to shut down the place because a few neighbors or the committee don’t like Rob Shamlin. The bottom line is the people who are going to decide are the [members of] the liquor authority, so we’re probably not worried about it. “
If the Sixth Ward losing its license this past April has taught us anything it’s that the opposition of the committee and angry neighbors can lead to the shutdown of well-established bars, but we suspect no one’s broken that news to Drory, who said he has full confidence in his plan to take over Fat Baby. The purchase should be finalized within the next 30 days, he told us. “Just to let you know, we have huge plans for Fat Baby,” he said. “We’re going to do a huge renovation with one of the top architects in the world, and Fat Baby is going to be one of the top places in town.”
He said he wasn’t aware of the problematic entryway but that if there are issues with the tenants at 112 Rivington Street he is “definitely going to fix them right away.” Our attempts to contact representatives for Fat Baby were not immediately returned. Community Board 3 will vote on its recommendation for the renewal of Fat Baby’s liquor license at its full board meeting October 27.