By Sabina Mollot
Visana, the new speakeasy style cocktail lounge on First Avenue that’s also a pizzeria in front, will be seeking the blessing of Community Board 6 for a renewal of its liquor license on Thursday.
However, as Town & Village has previously reported, the new venue, across from Stuyvesant Town, has managed to draw the ire of neighbors due to nighttime noise.
In November, cops at the 13th Precinct told neighborhood residents who’d complained about noise they’d be following up with the owner David Jaffee on that issue.
“The educating part has come and gone so we’ll deal with it accordingly,” said Detective Ray Dorrian at the time.
He’d also since then been slapped with charges by the State Liquor Authority over the noise complaints.
Another potential obstacle for the business is that too many licenses have been issued in the area already. The SLA generally only allows three full liquor licenses within 500 foot radius of one another, but according to a spokesperson for the agency, there were already three when Visana applied, but didn’t disclose this.
“For a fourth we would have had to hold a special hearing to find out if it’s in the public interest,” Crowley said.
While community boards only play an advisory role in determine who gets liquor licenses, Crowley said their opinions certainly factor into the SLA’s decisions.
“Their recommendations are weighed heavily,” he said.
A hearing before an administrative law judge will be held on March 22 on the charges of nondisclosure and noise, which were filed on December 10.
On December 21, the business owner pled not guilty, Crowley said.
This week, when asked for comment on the effort to renew his license, Jaffee told T&V, “Things have improved.We’ve improved relationships with our neighbors, which has helped.”
Jaffee also said he’d invested $5,000 into sound-proofing equipment and that a neighbor told him he hasn’t heard anything since then.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear if the noise that had driven neighbors to complain has reached properties beyond those immediately surrounding the bar/lounge, which is located on the west side of First Avenue and 18th Street.
On the license issue, Jaffee said his application was submitted by an attorney with over 20 years of experience before it was accepted.
Visana opened last summer in a space previously inhabited for 25 years by Adriatic, a pizzeria and Italian restaurant.
Jaffee, who moved to Stuyvesant Town last March, opened the business with partner Ross Rachlin.
It was Jaffee, however, who attracted the attention of neighborhood residents at the time, since just a few months earlier in April, he’d been the subject of an investigation into a short-term rental subletting business. A New York Post story on the subject was headlined, “NYC clamping down on ex-Airbnb Slumlord.”
Jaffee, a former club promoter, was accused of promoting short term rentals by stuffing tourists in crowded apartments at different Manhattan buildings.
When asked about this, Jaffee didn’t deny having rented multiple apartments to groups of tourists and others, but insisted the news coverage was exaggerated. He also said that he is now out of that business for good and is focused on his pizzeria and lounge.
“As of May 1, I gave back every single unit and I will never go back to doing it again,” he said.
He added that his main concern was for the tenants who suddenly had nowhere affordable to go, some of whom rented from him for over a year. The rentals, he said, merely served as a “bridge” from when he transitioned out of his last job in investment banking and into opening the pizzeria and bar.
On its website, Visana is described as offering “an intimate, exclusive yet welcoming ambiance with great music and trendsetting socialites.”
The concept at Visana is one that focuses on healthy ingredients; while the pizzeria offers gluten-free options, the lounge serves cocktails made with organic spirits.
Its license has allowed the location to serve alcohol until 3 a.m., which is one hour later than what the community board had wanted.
The meeting to hear from the owner of Visana as well as owners of other venues looking for new or renewed licenses, will be held by CB6’s Business Affairs & Street Activity Committee on Thursday, February 25 at 7 p.m. at the NYU School of Dentistry, 433 First Avenue, Room 220.