My Favorite Bar Is Battling Neighborhood Oppression

Categories: Nightlife

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Pieces -- my favorite hangout (at 8 Christopher Street) -- is looking for a new home, but it's coming up against the usual 2011 prejudices, repressions, and challenges.

Owner Eric Einstein has looked into relocating to 61 West 8th Street, the former Patty and Bun burger pub, two doors down from Gray's Papaya.

He wrote the West 8th Street Block Association this letter:

"I am hoping to work with you to get your support for my application [for a liquor license] as I have a longstanding and good history in the neighborhood. Pieces has been in Greenwich Village for 18 years this week and has had no noise complaints in that time.

"I have staff at the door at all times after 8 pm to proactively keep noise down on the sidewalk and to fix any situation on the rare occasion that we do receive a call about noise from a neighbor. I am one of the few small bars I know of that does this.

"Pieces has always been a neighborhood bar serving as a gathering spot and social outlet for local gay men and women. The new Pieces will carry on that tradition.

"West 8th has so many empty storefronts now that it would be great if a good business with a proven track record could make it a little less bleak."

Sounds perfectly reasonable, right?

But Einstein was CC'd on a letter from one of the association people. It said:

"In checking the website of Pieces bar, I found the following operating hours. Tues-Saturday 2pm to 4am, Sunday and Monday 2pm to 2am. This indicated a late night drinking bar with music and a good deal of in and out traffic late at night. This is not acceptable.

"The last thing 8th Street needs is another bar. When Patty and Bun were in the building, they had a few special events to try to generate business, the music was so loud the entire build was shaking.

"If I find, when application is made at the CB2 SLA Committe meeting in July that they are attempting to run the bar until 4am on any night of the week, I will vigorously oppose this license and ask that you do the same. Quality of life on 8th Street is difficult to maintain, this would be an added burden.

"If, as Mr. Einstein asserted, there is a staff member at the door after 8pm, then, this indicates there must have been a problem at some point previously with unruly or noisy clientele.

"This is not an eating establishment but a bar/lounge. As with other bars and restaurants that have opened and/or tried to open on 8th Street, Pieces Bar owners will have to sign an agreement about operating policy and hours prior to obtaining a liquor license for the 8th Street Block Association. No loud music, no velvet ropes outside the establishment, no bouncer standing outside the premises, and NO OPERATING HOURS BEYOND 2am on any night of the week."

Oy. Eighth Street is dying and these people are putting up old-fogey roadblocks?



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27 comments
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cathryn
cathryn

Question - tonight community board is reviewing august ventures, llc application for liquor license at 61 west 8th. Is this Pieces or another venture? Thanks.

Nathaniel Siegel
Nathaniel Siegel

Dear michael, just attended the meeting regarding pieces. One gay street resident accused this local bar as the reason for her rat problem. Do you know if rats prefer lemons or limes ? Now fags are responsible for vermin. Is there no end to this sort of thinly veiled homophobia ? Please advise. Nathaniel

Joelevi07065
Joelevi07065

I'm so confused. People want to live in NYC have access to all the ''excitement'' of what once was THE city to live and play in, yet have the tranquility of the burbs where you can hear the crickets??? Ain't gonna happen. You can't have it both ways. NYC is crumbling because of all of this sterilization. It's a perfect metaphor for the over use of anti-bacterials.

Cormac Flynn
Cormac Flynn

I think you underestimate the diversity of reasons people have for living in NYC and the diversity of definitions of "excitement" they have.  

That diversity is why we have to have processes where we negotiate and compromise and not just make sweeping officious (and ungrammatical) statements like "ain't gonna happen," "move to New Jersey," or (and this is a great example of the armchair expert "NYC is crumbling because of all this sterilization."  (I mean, what does that even mean?)In my view, people who want to do whatever they want, without regard to the impact on the neighbors; to make all the noise they want -  they should move out to the wider plots and open vistas outside the city.  Places like NYC require a large amount of compromise, self-limitation, and respect for the rights and privacy of others to work. 

FOP
FOP

I find your comments reasonable, well thought out, and clear. I do not live in Greenwich Village, but I have seen the changes that have taken place on W.8 th St., and I can only imagine the noise increase, not to mention pest problems. I live in Jackson Heights, where there is a large concentration of bars, and noise is definitely an issue, even out here. I was also once a regular patron of Pieces Bar, and I can say that they have always made an effort to keep patrons quiet when they smoke or linger outside the front door. I wish everyone in this situation the best of luck and civil discussion. Please don't hold Michael Musto's questionable actions against Pieces.

Cityyawk
Cityyawk

Mr Flynn. Residents ARE secondary in Manhattan. This is because the whole metropolitan area comes to play in the city at night, from the outer boroughs, Long Island and New Jersey they come, it's the Mecca of nightlife activity for our whole region. Tourist come in from around the world. It strikes all of us as absurd that these city residents choose to live in the center of activity paying rents we can only dream of being able to afford, and they try to interfere with our fun. If they like quiet let them live in a quiet neighborhood not try to quiet a bustling neighborhood at the heart of the city.

Cormac Flynn
Cormac Flynn

Apparently you did not read my earlier posts. The residents on this street are long timers who predate the 1980s rent explosion. They are artists, creatives, and regular working folk - the people who made Greenwich Village famous - who have managed to hang-on to their community. It is exactly because they can't pay huge rents that rich Yuppies like Musto think they can treat them like Russian serfs.

Many of us, like myself, live in the neighborhood we grew up in. Why should we be driven out just because bar owners from other places in NYC & suburbs would prefer to come wreck our neighborhood than do the same in their own. There is no law of nature that says you have to come to where I live, and my family has lived for generations, to party. Go party in your own neighborhood.

MSpeer
MSpeer

It seems to be hard for some of those who've responded to understand the delicate balance that must be achieved between businesses and residents. As a 55 year old gay man who first visited the Village in my teens  (and now lives in Chelsea) I am very much aware of the changes that have occurred in the area. And I hate that small local businesses have been forced out due to greedy landlords who most likely live far away and are not part of the neighborhood. And while I am especially sad to see that Pieces will have to move I am in complete agreement with you regarding this issue. Quiet enjoyment of my home is paramount (traffic notwithstanding). City windows and white noise machines would do nothing to quell the noise from a bar (gay or otherwise).

E-lysian
E-lysian

"Quiet enjoyment of my home is paramount (traffic notwithstanding)."

Then move to New Jersey.

Cormac Flynn
Cormac Flynn

You know, I've always respected Michael Musto so I am disappointed with him for writing such a low-blow hack piece.

I am the Co-Chair of the West 8th Street Block Association.  I was one of those Mr. Einstein emailed, though I was not the author of the reply you quote.  

Let me be clear to you about how our association works.  We collect the concerns and opinions of residents and then we sit down with the prospective licensee and discuss what they want to do and what the concerns of the residents are.  If we can come to some agreement, we support their license.  If not, we don't.  They are under no legal obligation to get or seek our support.

As a starting point for discussions, we encourage our neighbors, especially those like the writer you quote who live in immediate proximity to the proposed establishment, to share with us their concerns and views.  As in all things, you might find you agree with some people and disagree with others. 

I find it difficult to imagine the moral universe in which such a process of collecting opinion in preparation for negotiation constitutes "oppression."  I am not aware of any ethical obligation of an individual resident to support the license of a proposed commercial enterprise just because the owner wants one.  

On the other hand, I do find the spectacle of a nationally famous columnist abusing their privileged position to malign and intimidate working class citizens into silence repellent.  

If you had stooped to actual journalism you might have found that the email author you quote has only very recently survived a horrific NYC noise nightmare story and has earned the right to express strong opinions on the subject.  You might have found out that the block has worked hard with restauranteurs for years now, supporting numerous applications.  You might have found out that the closing times of other serving establishments on the block are currently 2 am Sunday through Thursday; that these hours have been negotiated and settled through years of discussion, compromise, and conflict; that residents are understandably concerned that a proposal for later hours could be a block-busting precedent.

Most of all, you may have learned that Greenwich Village is a residential neighborhood and not a stage for people who live elsewhere to act out, act up, and generally do things they would never do on their own street.  Your obvious assumption that West 8th Street's concerns are purely and simply commercial is disrespectful to everyone who lives here.  (Tell me, is this "let them eat cake" privileging of the profits of landlords over the quality of life of tenants a universal opinion for you?  Or is it just my little block you consider populated by second class citizens?)

For myself, I was impressed by Mr. Einstein's assertion that he has never had any noise complaints.  That sounds promising and I look forward to meeting with him.  And now I know my first question:  How did private emails addressed to me come to appear in the Village Voice?  

Desulta
Desulta

"Collecting opinion"? Yeah, well one of the opinions sounds grossly oppressive.

"Has survived a horrific noise nightmare"? Well, this is NYC. And one can always get quiet windows and/or a white noise machine.

"Greenwich Village is a residential neighborhood"??? Yeah, but it's always been a commercial neighborhood to. A restaurant and nightclub and store neighborhoid. It's famous for that!

Please don't act like YOU'RE the victim.

Cormac Flynn
Cormac Flynn

1.  As I noted, when you solicit opinions, you get all kinds.  As an Internet poster, you surely must know that.  Having said that, I'm not sure I see what is "grossly oppressive" about this one.  It is a strong opinion, forthrightly expressed, but that is not oppressive.  I don't see what is oppressive about saying that you don't want a bar in your building that is open until x hour and has rope line, but you could be OK with one open until y hour without.  

As an added merit, the writer was totally up-front and above board with Mr. Einstein about his position - communicating his views in person and copying him on his communications to me, which he was under no obligation to do.

2. I won't belabor you with the details of the "noise nightmare," but I'm not clear what quiet windows and a white noise machine would do for someone when the vibrations are shaking the pictures down and moving their furniture.  More to the point, your callous attitude that "this is NYC" when it comes to basic habitability issues IS "grossly oppressive."

3. Yes.  My street, for instance, has always been mixed use.  So why does Musto say it is "dying" just because the shops are struggling in this economy.  What about residents?  Why are their concerns secondary?  Many of us have been here longer than any of the commercial tenants.  

Also, until the last couple of years it hasn't had serving restaurants or bars in over a generation.  Does the fact it's had any commercial at all mean in your mind that residents surrender any rights vis-a-vis proposed bars?  (Apparently you don''t think the fact that we have gone from no licenses to over a dozen in a few years is a change because really, what is the difference between a shoe store and a bar.)

4. Let's review; Musto has:

- printed a private email addressed to me in a major news outlet for no legitimate purpose.

- disrespected and insulted and accused me, the association I am an officer of, and my neighbors in print.

- misleading implied that the writer of the letter represented my association.

I wouldn't say that makes me a "victim," but I think it is fair to say that Mr. Musto owes me, and his readers, an apology.

Alessandra
Alessandra

So sad, but this is New York in 2011. Eighth Street once drew people from all over the country and world because of its shoe stores, and it also had TLA Video's only outlet in NYC. Those businesses, like so many, were driven out in the move to glitz up the city. Well, the glitz has come and gone except in a few pockets (SoHo, Tribeca, the EX-Meatpacking District), leaving nothing but empty storefronts and a whole lotta tired. *Pieces* would be a great addition to 8th St. but you can't upset those yuppies who paid top dollar to live in (the museum version of) New York!

Cormac Flynn
Cormac Flynn

The loss of TLA was tragic and there is a lot to what you say about NYC, but TLA and the shoe stores weren't so much the victim of the race to glitz as greed.  They were forced out by landlords seeking the high rents that bars and restaurants can pay.  Actually, it is disappointing to see a neighborhood fixture like Pieces cooperate with this kind of gentrification.

But you make a mistake with the Yuppie comment.  It is surely true in other parts of town, but her on West 8th Street the tenement apartments are still mostly filled with long-time working and middle class residents - people with deep roots and many years in the Village who resent the invasion of their space and callous disregard of their piece of mind by high-income Yuppies like Musto. 

Vodkastinger
Vodkastinger

Oh and if anyone here lives in the 8th street area and is willing to help us fight the good fight, the fight send a message to Pieces@piecesbar.com we are gonna have to fight to save our night life

Vodkastinger
Vodkastinger

Thanks for running this.  Obviously it's important to me as I work there, but this is happening all over NYC.  this is quickly going from the city that never sleeps to the city that's in bed by 1am.  Thanks for your support Michael.

Trumorrah TuBeembuth
Trumorrah TuBeembuth

Why are they moving? They'd do much better where they are

Diva
Diva

I guess the lease is running out.

Clo
Clo

Please-they are good company-let us all move on. GPC

Riposte
Riposte

What the hell does that mean?

Movielover
Movielover

Trying to move in New York City is a complete nightmare.  If you are lucky enough to be ensconced, you must stay put...forever.

Joelevi07065
Joelevi07065

NO!!! You have to be kidding me...that there is resistance to a healthy business in Manhattan for all these years. I wish them the best of luck and if there's anything I can do to help support them, no matter where they move, I will. It's my favorite bar, and by far, the most welcoming to everyone. Shaking my head in disbelief.

Pieces Bar
Pieces Bar

I'm looking for anyone who lives in the neighborhood who is willing to help Pieces and make a stand on gay Village nightlife. Please contact me if you're up for it. savePieces@piecesbar.com

Harmar
Harmar

I love Pieces and think it would be a boon to 8th street which needs some viable commercial stuff going on.

Diva
Diva

Ugh. I hate what NY has become.

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