Eldridge Block Association Scores Victory Against Sapphire Lounge at SLA Hearing

Posted on: July 26th, 2013 at 5:23 am by
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Last week, the Eldridge Street Block Association (ESBA) went up against the Sapphire Lounge at a State Liquor Authority (SLA) hearing on renewing the bar’s license.

Sapphire has had a contemptuous history on the block. For almost 20 years, neighbors have put up with excessive noise and rowdy crowds outside of the club at 249 Eldridge.

In recent months, ESBA had met repeatedly with Jahan Salarimatin, owner of Sapphire, to try to hammer out stipulations about crowd control, noise levels (both inside the building, and outside on the street), and other issues.They had come to an agreement on all but one of the stipulations, but it was a critical one having to do with the level of noise in the apartments above the club.

At a Communty Board (CB3) hearing back in April, Salarimatin stated he would be renovating the space and including soundproofing. ESBA argued that he had to sign the stipulations before they could support anything. The problematic stipulation specified that the sound in the apartments above the club be “inaudible.” CB3 approved the language after hearing testimony from a large number of residents from many buildings on the block. The board also didn’t love the fact that the club had a complaint history. However, Salarimatin didn’t sign and instead took the case to the SLA last week.

ESBA brought a number of letters from residents in many affected buildings who were directly impacted by the nightclub’s unruly crowds. Aside from the many noise complaints, residents testified that they had been chased down the street by patrons blocking their doorways and had been cursed out and threatened by drunks. The bouncers, they stated, didn’t intervene despite these incidents taking place right in front of the club.

The SLA ruled in ESBA’s favor. Sound tests will now be conducted in the apartments above Sapphire and, once the sound levels are agreed upon (with a rep from CB3 there to mediate), even if they are BELOW the standard city code (which is often too loud inside apartments), that sound level will be written into the stipulations. Salarimatin needs to then sign the stipulations in order to keep his liquor license. This ruling is a huge victory for the neighborhood and, hopefully, this will set a precedent with other blocks who are having similar problems.

The chairman of the SLA said that the decision was directly influenced by the fact that tenants physically came to the hearing and spoke about the problems. And learning that the block association had reached out and attempted to resolve issues was also a significant factor in the SLA’s determination that the residents were acting as rational, logical neighbors who are just trying coexist peacefully with the businesses on their block while also getting some sleep.

Many block associations are finding that it is crucial to get as many tenants as possible who are DIRECTLY impacted by problems from bars and clubs to testify at these hearings. The SLA hearings, though, are during the day, so those who spoke had to take off from work in order to testify. But after nearly 20 years of not sleeping and being harassed, it was worth their time.

The SLA hearing, both video and audio are available here (July 17th/first listing/01:56:54 – 02:45:37).

ESBA and other block associations have been spreading the word that, to complain about noise and other problems, tenants must call 311, get a complaint number, and then ALSO go to the “complaint page” on the CB3 website to give them that complaint number. And if it is really bad, you need to call the police as well.

Note: after calling 311, you don’t have to immediately file the CB3 complaint. You can instead attempt to get some sleep and do it later that day. Unfortunately, if you only call 311 and do not also file the complaint information online with CB3, they will not have a complaint history. That complaint history is crucial at CB3 and SLA hearings.

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