West 21st St. lounge plan revised

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Residents feared late hours, noise, mayhem would compromise quality of life


  • Following pronounced community concerns, an initial proposal for a lounge with live music and a capacity of 100 in the basement of 261 West 21st St., near Eighth Avenue, has been scaled back. Photo: Michael DeSantis

Raul Avila is revising his liquor license application for a proposed West 21 Street lounge following heavy criticism from the Chelsea community.

Avila’s initial proposal was for a bar in the basement of 261 West 21st St., a residential building, that would stay open until 4 a.m., host 75-100 people, and feature live music with a DJ.

But residents came out strongly against the application at a meeting of Community Board 4’s Business Licenses and Permits Committee, which first debated the application last month. They cited noise concerns, danger from the max occupancy and overall disturbance on the residential block.

Avila appears to have heard the criticism. He now says he will not have live music and intends to revise the lounge’s hours so that it stays open no later that 11 p.m. weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends. He also said he would reduce patron capacity to a maximum of 60 and is prepared to hire security to prevent loitering. He’s adamant that the soundproofing he plans to invest in will be enough to stifle noise.

“I never wanted live music and dance because it’s not a nightclub,” Avila said recently. “That was never my intention.”

Avila said the lawyer he hired to assist with the application process was unfamiliar with the neighborhood and suggested to Avila that he apply for live music, late hours and everything else that would fit the mood of a bar.

“We were misguided,” Avila said, adding that he is no longer working with that lawyer. “I’m looking for someone who specializes in something I want to do and knows the rules and regulations of the neighborhood.”

Frank Holozubiec, co-chairman of CB4’s Business Licenses and Permits Committee, suggested the committee would have likely voted to recommend the full Community Board 4 to deny the bar a liquor license. Avila is taking a month or two to revise his application to fit the desires of Chelsea’s residents, as well as his own.

The committee forwards recommendations to the full board, whose vote for or against is then sent to the New York State Liquor Authority, which then decides on the application. Avila intends to bring his revised application to the CB4 committee next month at the earliest.

Joshua David, a 33-year resident of West 21st Street nearby, was starkly against the original application, but said Avila’s revisions would better fit the neighborhood.

“This issue is noise first and foremost, and the ability for people to live a sane and tranquil life in their homes,” David said. “If they can manage to run the business so that residents are not impacted by noise, I don’t have any objection to this.”

Pamela Wolff, a representative of the Chelsea West 200 Block Association and a longtime neighborhood resident who opposed the original application said she’s open-minded to whatever Avila come back with.

“These two people seem to be very agreeable fellows,” she said of Avila and a colleague. “They seemed stunned by the confrontation of so many people who seemed strongly opposed and the position the board took. There’s a chance they rethink the whole concept and their business plan. That’s my real hope.”

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