How Bars Can Please, Or Really Piss Off, Their Neighbors

by BILLY GRAY · September 23, 2010

A wise man named Arthur Baer once said, "A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence, but doesn't climb over it." But when it comes to bars in NYC, the best neighbor an owner can hope for is one who doesn't pole vault over the fence and punch him in the face.

It seems that no restaurant, bar or nightclub--new or existing--in this city escapes the wrath of sleepy locals nowadays. Whether they show their disapproval at raucous community board meetings or by suspending soiled underwear above the heads of obnoxious patrons, the folks next door are a notoriously challenging lot to please.

Based on three current scuffles, here are some tips for restaurateurs and bar owners on what, and what not, to do in their neighborhoods:

Keith McNally's Pulino's Cafe, proposed at 18 Greenwich Avenue

Good: Stealthily submitting proposal to the State Liquor Authority under the "Friendly Foods LLC" alias...

Bad: ...then blowing cover by saying the place will be doing business as Pulino's Cafe, an offshoot of mobbed Bowery pizzeria Pulino's.

Ugly: Trying to talk sense to Village Community Board 2, which might be as contemptuous of, well, everything, as the Lower East Side's Community Board 3.

Aces & Eights: 34 Avenue A

Good: Install East Village-y art gallery upstairs. The East Village may no longer be quite the cauldron of avant garde bohemianism that it used to be. But when Aces & Eights owner expanded his preppy-leaning Upper East Side bar to Alphabet City, the knives came out. Incorporating a photography exhibit into the venue briefly put some neighbors at ease.

Bad: Asking neighbors to rename the bar.  A noble gesture, maybe, but put on your snark-retardant suit.

Ugly: Operating without an operating permit.

Sin Sin: 248 East 5th Street

Good: Uh, providing shelter for nearby Lit's overflow crowds? Beats the sidewalk and keeps them off stoops?

Bad: Murder.

Ugly: Retroactively provocative name. Installing new neon sign declaring embattled bar's retroactively provocative name three weeks after said murder.