Council denies cafe a sidewalk renewal permit

Council rejection based on owner’s failure to pay $16,000 in City fees. Dominick DeSimone, owner of the Stonewall Bistro, the Stonewall Bar and the Stonewall Nightclub in Greenwich Village, applied to renew his sidewalk permit for the Bistro at 113 Seventh Avenue South. Community Board 2 and residents opposed the renewal.

At the Council hearing before the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, DeSimone alleged that the community ‘s opposition to the renewal application was based on the fact that the Stonewall was a gay bar and nightclub with primarily black and latino patrons and not based on the operation of the sidewalk cafe, which was without incident. DeSimone argued that this community prejudice was evidenced by 45 violations, all of which were eventually dismissed, that were issued against the nightclub and stemmed from neighbors’ complaints to the City. DeSimone added that the NYPD informed him that once inspectors are called, they have to find something wrong. He then provided a protracted explanation of the operations of the bar and nightclub, arguing that the club was operating in conformance with its BSA permit, for which DeSimone was also seeking renewal.

Opponents to the application, including the Chair of Community Board 2, testifying about the problems with the Stonewall nightclub, claimed that the community was “powerless” until renewal applications provided a forum for their complaints. All three opponents said that they took offense to being categorized as having a personal vendetta against a gay bar.

Council Member Christine Quinn, Greenwich Village’s representative, dismissed both DeSimone’s and the opponents’ discussions of the Stonewall bar and night club as irrelevant, noting that the only issue before the Subcommittee was the Bistro’s sidewalk permit application. Quinn said that DeSimone received a sidewalk permit three years ago and never paid the fees, which amounted to $16,000. Only a week before the hearing, DeSimone told Quinn that he could not afford’ to pay the City; in the end, DeSimone paid the City $7,000 only days before the hearing.

Quinn urged disapproval, arguing that the Council should not reward an owner that benefits from City permits, but fails to pay for the benefit. Quinn argued that the Council should set a precedent that if you fail to pay the City, the Council will reject any renewal application. Following Quinn’s suggestion, the full Subcommittee voted to deny DeSimone’s renewal permit. The Land Use Committee and the full Council also voted to disapprove.

Council: Stonewall Sidewalk Cafe Permit (October 27, 2005). CITYADMIN

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