Feb 162012

Halloween 2011 dance party at Amnesia nightclub. The club is facing strong opposition from neighbors and Community Board 10 in its pursuit of a cabaret license. Video by Alex Pushkin on Vimeo.

A cabaret license application for the Amnesia nightclub (10007 4th Avenue) is facing stiff opposition from neighbors, who spoke out against the club at a Community Board 10 sub-committee meeting Wednesday night.

Citing community complaints, adverse history, and the fact that Amnesia has already been operating as a dance club without a cabaret license, the Police & Public Safety Committee voted to recommend rejecting Amnesia’s cabaret application.

Representatives from Amnesia claimed that the club is only open once a week now, a departure from its earlier life as a Brazilian steak house. Club representatives also claimed to have made recent changes to security arrangements, and pointed to the 68th precinct’s own report of a spotty complaint and arrest history in 2011 versus a clean record so far in 2012.

Community residents, however, cited many quality-of-life problems with prior events, as recent as the club’s last promoted 18-and-up dance party on New Year’s Eve and teen dance party on Martin Luther King weekend. Committee Chairman George Fontas expressed dismay that Amnesia has already been operating, by the admission of the club representatives, as a cabaret without the necessary license from the City. Residents challenged assertions by club representatives that patrons used valet parking (using the lot at St. Patrick’s Church), and said instead that area streets were clogged with double-parked and otherwise illegally parked cars. Noise from music inside of the club and patrons outside of it was a cited factor, along with garbage- and vomit-strewn streets for days after club events.

New York City’s current cabaret and dancing laws were passed in 1926 as a way to crack down on partying and interracial dating associated with Harlem’s jazz clubs. Enforcement waned for decades, but was revived in the 1990s by the Giuliani Administration. According to the Village Voice, there were 12,000 cabaret-licensed establishments across the five boroughs in 1961, but only 276 in 2002. The NY Times claimed this number dropped below 200 by 2008.  The only three cabaret-licensed establishments in Bay Ridge are Remy, Capri (identified as Suite by the Community Board), and The Salty Dog. (For more on cabaret licensing: WNET | NY Nights)

In spite of the dwindling numbers of licensed clubs, one resident warned that allowing a cabaret license for Amnesia would set a precedent for bars and restaurants in the immediate area to follow suit, citing a discussion from earlier in the meeting, when the bar Gallery Social won the committee’s blessing to stay open until 4am seven days a week based on the competitive pressures it faces from bars near its own location.

The measure will be up for a vote by the full board at the Community Board 10 meeting on February 27. The City’s Department of Consumer Affairs can choose to follow the Community Board recommendation, but is not obligated to do so.

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