By Joy Bergmann
Owners of several upcoming Upper West Side restaurants came before Community Board 7’s Business & Consumer Issues Committee last week to ask for liquor licenses.
One owner had a particularly tough time convincing neighbors, whose message was: “Not in Their Backyard.”
Thirty residents from the 100 block of West 74th and 73rd Streets showed up in force to protest the liquor license application for Leyla, an upcoming Turkish Mediterranean restaurant at 108 W. 74th.
Husseyin Ozer, current owner of Bodrum Mediterranean and a former partner in Bella Luna, had had his application for Leyla recently denied by CB7 after locals raised concerns about noise from a proposed backyard patio space as well as worries about increased odors, vermin, trash and traffic around the site, located four buildings west of Columbus Avenue.
But Ozer returned to the committee with his architect, John Ellis, and hospitality attorney Donald Bernstein and asked for reconsideration on a revised application. “We don’t want to create problems for the community,” said Bernstein. “We’re not doing something that’s unheard of. It’s zoned for commercial. And it’s not an anomaly,” citing several nearby restaurants that are also operating off the main avenues like Raku, Arte Cafe, Joanne Trattoria, Pasha and Patsy’s.
Multiple committee members agreed that Ozer had a solid track record as a conscientious restaurateur. “He’s an incredible operator. Bodrum is a quiet operation. He offers great food at good prices,” said Doug Kleiman. “This is the kind of applicant and restaurant we want in this neighborhood.”
But folks living adjacent to the property really, really wish he’d picked a spot on Columbus, Amsterdam or Broadway.
“We believe in supporting small businesses, but with so many empty restaurants on the avenues, why disrupt a residential street?” asked Colleen Farrell from 105 West 73rd, noting that any noises created in the block’s backyard spaces get amplified by the “Canyon Effect.”
“You hear every single noise in that canyon,” echoed Thomas Kelly of 102 West 74th. “There’s no need for this and it will cause a significant changes in our quality of life.”
“This is a tough decision,” said Committee Chairperson Michelle Parker, reminding everyone that CB7 is an advisory board and that the State Liquor Authority may choose to follow its recommendation or not.
The Committee decided on a compromise. To gain their recommendation, Ozer agreed not to open the backyard to any patrons whatsoever. The full-service, 48-seat restaurant inside will open at 11 a.m. and do final seatings at 10 p.m. on weekdays, 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The matter will be voted upon at the full CB7 Board meeting on June 5th.
The committee also voted on other liquor license applications.
Chef Julian Medina and partner Louis Skibar are looking to expand their Mexican cuisine empire (Toloache, Tacuba Cantina, Coppelia) later this summer with Damiana at 153 Amsterdam Avenue at 67th Street. Medina says Damiana’s menu will emphasize Baja-style seafood and offer 100 different tequilas and mezcals in a 65-seat restaurant serving lunch and dinner.
The committee said, however, noise concerns from upstairs neighbor Elizabeth Bejarano will need to be addressed before they can recommend approval for Damiana’s liquor license. Medina and Skibar agreed to consult with a sound engineer to ensure adequate soundproofing is in place.
New Amsterdam Burger & Bar will be filling the picket-fenced environs of the former Elizabeth’s at 680 Columbus Ave at 93rd Street. Michael Gershkovich of Mike’s Bistro is teaming up with Yosef and Renee Charlap to open a casual, kosher, family-oriented restaurant with 60 seats inside and 40 on the front patio.
The group said they expect to open in September and hope to provide a lively atmosphere, “But quiet on shabbos!” said Mrs. Charlap.
“Mazel tov,” said Committee member Linda Alexander after a unanimous vote in favor of the liquor license application.