JACOB’S PICKLES BASEMENT BAR PROPOSAL REJECTED BY COMMUNITY BOARD AFTER NEIGHBORS COMPLAIN

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By Sasha Pezenik

The tremendously successful Jacob’s Pickles on 84th and Amsterdam wants to amend its liquor license and extend the brine and booze to the basement; a manager presented an application to a community board committee Wednesday, but it didn’t get quite the reception he’d hoped for.

General manager Arsham Kamali described what he called a “speakeasy, Clam Bar atmosphere.” Apologizing for Jacob’s absence (he’s getting married in a week), Kamali outlined the downstairs plans, emphasizing exclusivity and intimacy: by reservation only, open in later hours only, serving cold plates, small snacks, and a “higher-end cocktail program,” with quiet music and no upstairs spillover. Any noise complaints Jacob’s Pickles may have had in the past, Mr. Kamali said, would not be compounded by a basement addition, and “Jacob is a go-to guy, if anyone has any grievances.”

“That’s absolutely untrue!” interjected a voice from the crowd. Maria, a tenant in the Jacob’s Pickles building, painted a different picture. Tensions escalated as Maria described 3 years’ worth of frustrated emails with Jacob and his establishment – seeing little change. “Before Jacob’s Pickles opened, living here was heaven on earth,” Maria said, “Now, it’s hell on earth.”

Despite numerous noise complaints, Maria says, the managers have not removed the loud speakers from their ceiling-adjacent perch; several other residents of the building, as well as the landlord, were present and offered equally exasperated viewpoints.

“You could literally take Ambien and not sleep through it!” said a young woman living over the restaurant.

“Oh, and I have!” Maria responded, adding that she has had to check herself into the hospital several times for sleep-deprivation related illnesses.

Landlord and tenants also sited troubling grime in the building foyer and on the stairs – evidently, Jacob’s Pickles rents space directly above the restaurant as an office. “Busboys go in and out carrying boxes, bottles and trash up and down those stairs ‘til dawn, and it’s filthy,” Maria expressed, as her landlord vigorously nodded.

Community board co-chair George Zeppenfeldt-Cestero noted the affordable housing shortage in Manhattan, and suggested occupying a large swath of such a desirable area might be inconsiderate.

Ultimately, the petition for Jacob’s liquor license expansion was denied, at least until more thoroughly discussed with Jacob himself. “There are ways to resolve this,” Mr. Zeppenfeldt-Cestero said, “We can address this when Jacob returns from his honeymoon.” The final decision on the liquor license is made by the state liquor authority, although the community board recommendation can carry significant weight.

FOOD, NEWS | 42 comments | permalink
    1. Jeff says:

      So don’t live above a busy restaurant! Move to a side street and stop trying to ruin a wonderful establishment enjoyed by literally thousands of people.

      • AC says:

        @jeff it’s not that simple. People could have lived there previous to the restaurant or could own within the building. It’s not always as easy as picking up and moving. I love Jacobs Pickles, but I have been there at 11:30 pm on a Friday night and couldn’t believe how crowded it was and how loud it was in there. I can’t imagine neighbors being able to tune that out and enduring that everyday.

        • Young Sally says:

          I am trying to remember…but wasn’t it a lighting store for many years before it became JP? I love JP…but I can imagine it is disruptive for those who live above it. Amsterdam has changed tremendously in the past 20 years….mostly for the good….but it certainly is a lot busier …especially at night.

          • Joel says:

            Back in 1994, living on Amsterdam Avenue meant overlooking a peaceful orchard. You used to be able to lean out the window and wave at Thoreau on his way to contemplate life outside the 79th Street stop. Shame what’s happened.

            • Young Sally says:

              Wow….I remember it being a bit rougher than that…but sarcasm noted…and approved.

            • wise-duck says:

              There was nothing better than strolling home from work and picking a ripe apple from the hands of a heroin addict on a nearby bench. Oh for the halcyon days of yore.

          • AC says:

            back in the early mid-90’s it was 511, then it became moonlighting, then some other spot before it became Jacob’s Pickle. The lighting store was two businesses North.

            • AC says:

              Just dawned on me that it was location of the famous Velcro wall at Perfect Tommy’s! Funny how back then, they would have allowed the bar in the basement. Don’t forget, back in 1962 84 Street (between Amsterdam and Columbus) was deemed one of the most dangerous blocks in all of NYC. The same people who gentrified the hood are now blocking their own progress!

            • BMAC says:

              Actually that’s not right. The storefront that is now “E’s Bar” is the old Moonlighting space, which later became the Neptune Room and briefly another spot or two that each flopped. Young Sally is correct in her recollection that the space was previously a lighting store. I imagine that was rather pleasant to live above in comparison to JP, which is one of the most raucous spots on the stretch.

    2. Paul RL says:

      Our Community Board stinks! They should be doing everything they can to accommodate our local businesses, not hinder them. It’s no wonder that other neighborhoods are thriving, while ours struggles.

    3. tenant says:

      Affordable living space in Manhattan on the Upper West Side is also a need and to tell tenants to move is a terrible, unfair suggestion.

      • bravo soldier says:

        Affordable to whom? This is a euphemism for “below market”, and no, a successful, friendly neighborhood restaurant is much more important for that neighborhood’s wellbeing than “affordable” whatever. It’s a city, for god’s sake.

    4. Lester says:

      I love how the two comments are clearly Jacob’s shills.
      Do either of you live above a shitty restaurant

      • whatsupduck says:

        Please don’t assume they are Jacob’s shills.

        Jacob is a great guy, as is John and the rest of the team. Let’s not make it personal. From what I understand, he has gone above and beyond to soundproof it, make sure the music is low, etc.

        Plus, that block has ALWAYS been for zoned commercial use on the first level, dating back over 80 years. That’s the risk you take when renting there.

        The restaurant pays its rent, and the upstairs tenants pay theirs. You rent your apartment, not the building. He’s entitled to be there.

        And Jacob, if you are reading this, Mazel Tov on your upcoming wedding.

      • Virginia says:

        I’m going to guess that one of those comments was made by a real estate developer, a common troll on the WSR… Can’t they get a little more creative and descriptive than “Our Community Board stinks!”?

        (For the record, I do like the biscuits and gravy at Jacob’s Pickles, yet I am sympathetic to the tenants of the building.)

        • Paul RL says:

          C’mon, Virginia – I thought my old-fashioned visceral reaction of saying that something “Stinks!” was creative, in a throwback sort-of-way. Anyway, your own trolling “real-estate-developer-troll” comment notwithstanding, I am simply a longtime resident of the UWS that feels that CB7 hasn’t a clue as to how to help our small businesses thrive up here. Many business owners that I speak to complain greatly how CB7 makes it so hard for them to add sidewalk cafes, liquor licenses, etc. Not to mention how CB7 tried to get rid of various neighborhood-enhancing staples like the Columbus Avenue Crafts Fair.

    5. CS says:

      Sympathetic to the residents of the building.

      Also there are always tons of people on the sidewalk at night and during the day on weekends and honestly, nearly impossible to walk on the sidewalk.

      Was there a few times when it first opened. Not as amazing as the crowds suggest….

    6. C says:

      …and you wonder why the UWS has so many empty storefronts, and banks. You’d have to be out of your mind to open a small business.

      • Lisa says:

        Many if not most UWS stores and restaurants have been forced out due to huge rent increases.
        Then the stores are vacant…

        • Kevin says:

          You know what helps pay rent increases? Finding ways to make more money. Perhaps if they opened a basement bar they could use the extra revenue to pay that rent increase?

          Oh wait ……

    7. Elbo says:

      Hard to understand why those commenting above think you can’t have a successful business without annoying your neighbors.

      • Cato says:

        Of course this is the most sensible comment of the lot. People lived above a lamp store for years; no, it wasn’t Thoreau’s meadow, it was a commercial store, it was in New York City, and it was livable. That’s not only possible, but happens all the time.

        Now they find themselves living over an enterprise that arrogantly equates “loud” with “success”. Why does that have to be? Should families have to pick up and move from their homes — or should the enterprise simply find a way to more respectful of their new neighbors.

        It is indicative of the new culture in the neighborhood that so many of the “resty” crowd simply want loud and boisterous, and everyone else should just break up their homes, pick up and move.

        The me-first, and me-only, arrogance is truly, and literally, shameful.

    8. bravo soldier says:

      So let’s just shut down all businesses where people might have a good time. Then any Maria from upstairs would sleep like a log and everyone else would be safely in front of their TV and not (horror!) standing on the sidewalk! laughing! eating! having a good time!
      This community board is a bunch of losers who should get a life. Too late for that, so they try to ruin it for other people, and to hell with neighborhood businesses, let’s have more of CVS crap. Shame.

    9. Brian says:

      I laud the representative of Jacob for his demeanor and willingness to cooperate here. His boss (Jacobs) owns and operates one of the most successful businesses on the UWS, and the resolution is not for either the business or the residents to simply “move.”

      I hope both sides can reach a compromise on noise and concessions (on both ends) so Jacob’s business can stay and grow.

    10. Pickled says:

      I know both Jacob and Arsham, and I’m sorry to say but they are both complete jerks. I love the food at Jacob’s, but after the 2nd year open or so it turned into a total douche-fest. Full of obnoxious patrons and the pumped-up music is so unnecessary. They think it’s Tonic East or something. I laughed when I heard hey got denied. Karma, dudes.

      • ABM says:

        Then you clearly don’t know them if that’s your honest opinion. BOTH of those guys have been nothing but a pleasure to me, my fiancee, our friends in town and out of town that we bring to this establishment … You’re comparing Jacob’s to Tonic??! Are you out of your damn mind? Just going to assume you got dumped @ JPs by your lame ass ex-bf and now you have a grudge … Grow up

    11. Lisa says:

      Where does Jacob live?

    12. Christina says:

      It really shouldn’t be a surprise regarding noise. Amsterdam Ave. has been a mecca for bars for a long, long time.

    13. Joel says:

      I think Jacob’s is way over-rated and way over-priced. I’m not a shill, I went once and haven’t gone back and have no plans to. They served me items in a jar for no apparent good reason.

      That said, this is Columbus Avenue in New York freaking City. There should be no expectation of quiet (respect, certainly, but cripes, the atmosphere outside this place is hardly Alphabet City ca. 1984).

      The primary thing is an expansion of Jacob’s Pickles creates more seating which cuts down on the crowds waiting outside who make the noise. I mean, jeez.

      Oy vey/Dear Lord/Uff Da/etc

      • Joel says:

        Amsterdam Avenue, whatever–sorry. Sheesh. People are not going to stop coming, all this denial of an expansion did is put more people out onto the street, whatever its name is.

    14. YMBP says:

      You haterZ are all so poor

    15. FP says:

      I love Jacob’s Pickles but with the constant crowds and noise, I would NOT want to love anywhere near it.

    16. Bruce Bernstein says:

      i thought it was a little arrogant of Jacob not to show up at the meeting. So he’s getting married “in a week.” if this license is important to him, he’ll show up himself and face the music. Otherwise he’s sending a message… which apparently the committee heard.

      His neighbors managed to show up.

    17. MLG says:

      These folks complaining are absouletly absurd … Im sitting in jacobs right now and there is NO issue with the music, and i can hold a conversation without yelling! You haters make it seem like this place is Brother Jimmy’s or Jake’s Dilema … JPs opening up here is one of the best things that happened to the UWS in the last few years … No clue how opening something in the basement would make MORE noise … Ridiculous!!!

    18. Independent says:

      A number of people have made comments faulting the tenants who live above this establishment for having the audacity to complain about the noise. How dare these people feel entitled to sufficient quiet at night to sleep or even hear themselves think. So goes the sentiment of their attackers who have posted here. I can only wonder how many of these same individuals would be singing the same tune were they to find themselves in the situation that the people who live above Jacob’s Pickles do.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        well said.

      • Christina says:

        Been there, done that! It’s part of living in NYC. I’m actually living on the 3rd floor of a Trump building and I hear constant noise but it’s the garbage trucks at godly hours of the night most nights, the bus stop that has buses idle and make noise, the people coming and going in the middle of the night, the fire trucks and cop cars that are a very regular occurrence late at night, the car alarms going off, the West Side H’way. I could go on and on.
        But I know it’s part of living in the city and I chose to live here and no amount of complaining is going to stop it. So I think people should be aware of where they want to live and the consequences of doing so.

    19. Sasha Charnin says:

      Every Friday night living at 85th and Amsterdam at approximately 2:00am there were insane, loud, obnoxious alcohol fused fights that spilled out on the street from Moonlighting. We called them “Friday Night Fights.” It was absolutely awful. We were woken up and actually waited for silence and for a gunshot to go off, it was that bad. But instead-a cop car always arrived to get rid of these people. So I would assume that this is what the residents fear. They were there long before Jacobs and other restaurants that haven’t survived.
      I also know that $15 a glass of alcohol is what you need to keep yourself afloat no matter how popular your pancakes and pickles are.
      this is a tough one. no one will be happy. it’s a part of living in this great city. you just have to kind of suck it up. Maybe Jacobs can…pay in some rent money for the residents? #keepdreaming

    20. George says:

      I do not understand. If you do not want to deal with the possibility of living above a commercial store-front (hardware store or bar alike), then live on a side-street. If you do not mind either way, then live on an avenue. But don’t be the arbiter of which businesses move into a neighborhood or which businesses decide to undergo an upgrade.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        sorry… BOTH parties (the business and the residents) have rights. BOTH parties have to be treated fairly. that is why we have community boards. gee, what a great idea!

    21. Robert says:

      I’ve got zero sympathy for these trendy new eateries. They make no attempt to hire locals, not even army veterans, and the kitchen staff are all illegal aliens. We have housing projects full of people who need jobs, not to mention teenagers who can’t get summer jobs. I’d rather see a Chipotle or a Five Guys Burger. At least the chains & franchises hire locals.