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Queens Chronicle

Alobar says zoning add changes contract

Sidewalk cafes boost competition, while neighbors worry about noise

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Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:42 am, Thu May 16, 2013.

A proposed zoning addition changes everything, one Long Island City restaurateur said.

Two and half years ago Jeff Blath, owner of Alobar at 46-42 Vernon Blvd., signed a contract with Community Board 2 that he would never have outdoor seating, but now to the outrage of a few residents he’s asking for just that.

Blath says it’s for good reason.

On April 10 the City Planning Commission approved a zoning amendment that allows sidewalk cafes on Vernon Boulevard and in Hunters Point, where previously they were illegal. The City Council is scheduled to vote on it on May 14.

“There are going to be so many more businesses with outdoor seating now,” Blath said. “It’s not fair to exclude one business. Every nice day we lose thousands of dollars and that’s with an ‘s.’”

He said that he repeatedly sees outdoor cafes packed with customers while indoor seating areas are empty.

Blath also contends that his proposed 15- to 18-seat backyard patio will be more controlled than a sidewalk cafe.

“Sidewalk cafes get in the way of pedestrians,” Blath said.

Plans for the backyard include no outdoor speakers, no smoking and a 10 p.m. curfew.

However, three residents at last Thursday’s CB 2 meeting said the proposal will ruin their quality of life.

“The backyard is an echo chamber,” Paul Short said. “They don’t need a backyard to thrive.”

Neighbors alleged Blath promised not to open the establishment’s back windows or doors, though the restaurant’s owner said he is allowed to do so until 8 p.m.

“I feel betrayed,” Alobar’s neighbor David Haase said.

“I appreciate the businesses, but I believe they should keep it in their walls,” LIC artist and resident Beth Garrett agreed.

Alobar was to meet with Community Board 2 City Services and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday after print time to discuss the expansion. The CB’s decision is Alobar’s last step to using its backyard, unless the establishment were to fight the two-and-half-year-old contract on the state level.

How many concessions an establishment should make to a community board is something that has come up with neighboring CB 1 in Astoria.

For nearly a year, a yet-to-open bikini bar called Racks has been applying for its State Liquor Authority license and been facing considerable community opposition while doing so.

CB 1 asked the owners of Racks to sign a contract saying it would never become a strip club, something their lawyer refused.

“I’m not going to have a client sign their rights away,” Racks attorney Kerry Katsorhis said in October.

Katsorhis said his clients have no intention of running a strip club, but he never wants to give up their options.

Alobar is facing the repercussions of signing a similar agreement — though they opt for slacks, not bikini bottoms.

Welcome to the discussion.