Good Night Mr. Lewis: Harbour Drive Unmoored by Community Board Fogies

imageHarbour Drive, the much-anticipated Soho restaurant-lounge, has hit a reef. Two of the four partners have left the project following the community board’s refusal to grant anything but a 1 a.m. license to the Spring Street side of the establishment. The space has two rooms and two bars — one with the Spring Street address and another with a Hudson Street address. The Hudson Street address was granted a full (till 4 a.m.) license. Despite this setback, the remaining two partners, who wish to remain anonymous, will forge ahead.

I asked promoter Bugsy — who, along with Bill Spector — has decided to move on why they couldn’t operate with this arrangement. Bugsy believes that they won’t be able to make money without full use of the smallish space. It seems that a previous tenant operated Green Room there and drove the octogenarian members of Community Board 2 crazy. So why did they grant the 4 a.m. license to the Hudson Street side? Why wouldn’t you qualify in both sides, if one side is ruled acceptable? Bugsy replied, “It made no sense.” Having worked on this project for over a year, they now walk away with nothing. All involved have spotless records and invested with the understanding that licensing would be granted.

Unless the remaining partners can reapply, change minds, or get around this devastating ruling, many people will now be left without jobs, and the city and state will lose tax revenues. These times call for leadership to step up and get such important decisions back into the courts and away from a non-elected community board, which will invariably be at cross-purposes with a drinking establishment. In this atmosphere — where an investor with a clean record must lay out hundreds of thousands of dollars and, in most cases, millions before knowing if a license is granted — it will be increasingly difficult to build. What happened at Harbour Drive is happening throughout the city; obtaining a liquor license has become nearly impossible. These times cannot afford the loss of jobs, taxes, and sales of goods imposed by community boards, which are usually comprised of people who do not actually represent the needs of the community.

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