The owners of the landmarked Richmond Hill Republican Club presented their plans for the century-old building to Community Board 9 Tuesday night, and the board is now tasked with deciding if a desired renovation of the landmark structure is worth approving a license many community boards loathe to support.
The owners, a group called Siberian Ice, want to use the building at 86-15 Lefferts Blvd., between Jamaica and Hillside avenues, as a catering hall, but they also plan to put another facility in the basement of the structure that will require them to get a cabaret license. Some community boards opt to never give out cabaret licenses and most, including CB 9, require more extensive information than usual in order to approve one.
Siberian Ice is seeking a change in usage according to section 74-711 of the city’s zoning regulations, which would allow them to restore the building to close to what it was, while using it as a catering hall.
“One of the uses they are proposing for this building is not permitted for this zoning district,” said Sylvia Hack, chairwoman of CB 9’s land use committee. “So they will need to come back and get a special license from the city to allow a cabaret in the basement.”
Hack said CB 9 favors a “better” rather than a “mediocre” restoration of the building, which has been vacant for two decades, and that may require the board to approve the cabaret license at a later date. While Siberian Ice is not required to apply for a 74-711, it is willing to, but only if the cabaret license is approved. Because only the faÁade of the building is landmarked, Siberian Ice is only required to maintain the front and not the entire building.
“They are not prepared to do this higher restoration unless they do get approval for the cabaret license,” Hack added.
CB 9 Chairman Jim Cocovillo said the cabaret license issue puts the board in a bind because, while most members want the building to have the best restoration possible, many may have reservations about a dancing license.
“It’s a Catch-22 because they said one had nothing to do with the other,” said Jim Cocovillo, alluding to the board’s conundrum of having to approve a cabaret license in order to get a desired restoration.
Nevertheless, the board voted with only two members opposed to support the “best” restoration of the club building, though that doesn’t necessarily mean the cabaret license will be approved.
Board members also expressed a number of concerns about the plans, including parking concerns.
Siberian Ice has been working for nearly seven years to refurbish the building, which had the faÁade landmarked in 2002. The building used to house the neighborhood Republican Party and featured speakers including several former presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan.