EMM Forced to Withdraw Application to Legitimize Finale at 199 Bowery

Posted on: February 12th, 2013 at 6:00 am by
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SLA subcommittee meetings for Community Board 3 are notorious for running long, and last night’s extravaganza was no exception. The main event was EMM Group and their application to basically legitimize Finale, a club that had been operating against stipulations set forth last year. This one applicant appeared at the outset, and hogged the first two hours of the marathon session. Tempers flared as arguments were posed for and against, all while the board tried to maintain order. You know, high drama.

“Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining” was certainly the quote of the evening, spouted by neighborhood activist Michele Campo in reference to the bait-and-switch at 199 Bowery. Well-heeled EMM principals Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum, alongside their counsel Rob Bookman, appeared before CB3 for a “methods of operations notice” to switch the dancing component (i.e. club) from Crash Douche Bow to Finale on the main level. The excuse given was that soundproofing the basement in its current state was impossible, and that $1.5 million had already been dropped on an airtight room upstairs. That dining and a Jazz were still part of the equation down there. Only problem is Finale had been slyly operating as a club well before this meeting to ask for such permissions. And neighbors could nevertheless hear noise emanating from the space.

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Four residents from 199 Bowery, among others, vehemently opposed the proposition, citing various hardships. For instance, the young woman working from home as a pro composer who can’t inhabit her apartment due to the constant bass vibrations and overall noise from the ground level. Not the basement. Or the parents of a newborn who are forced to flee their home on the weekends because the frequent interruptions are unlivable. The condo board president also made a valid point to use a sound system commensurate with what the space allows.

Then there were those speaking in favor, most of whom were barely credible, save for a sole building resident. There was the one woman who failed to mention that she worked for EMM before stating her approval. Her response to questions of affiliation to the applicants elicited loud laughter from all in attendance. Another supporter spoke highly of the establishment, how it’s cleaning up “the element” from the block, yet lives up on East Third Street and is not directly affected.

As the committee deliberated, it became more apparent that the EMM argument didn’t quite hold water. Seriously, how could it be that these experienced nightlife operators hadn’t, through due diligence, considered this soundproofing problem much earlier in the game? Simple. Finale – their crown jewel – was the plan all along. Moreover, in perhaps the funniest moment of the evening, Remm contradicted their entire reputation by saying their oversight was attributed to being “naive dreamers.” During this contentious back-and-forth, the principals eventually lost patience and became highly defensive, going so far as attacking those in the audience who opposed the plans.

After two hours of debate, chair Alexandra Militano motioned to deny outright, which the EMM camp claimed would result in worse living conditions for residents due to aforementioned issues surrounding soundproofing. The measure caught the vote of 4-3-1, and the Board concluded that the one abstention counted as “no vote,” so hung jury resulted. In the effort to move along, it was decided that EMM had to return at the end of the meeting for the word.

But by then they begrudgingly withdrew the application at the behest of Susan Stetzer.

One thing was certainly clear after leaving last night – EMM stirred the hornets nest and angered many people in both the building and neighborhood at large. They’ll likely be back next month…

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