By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Stuyvesant Town residents expressed concern at a town hall last Wednesday about the possibility of increased noise and rowdiness if beer and wine were to be served at Five Stuy Cafe, while some others voiced their support for a license.
ST/PCV general manager Rick Hayduk, café operator Frank Traina and on-site manager Murat Alpay offered information at the town hall about the addition of beer and beer and wine to the menu, and some in attendance took issue with Hayduk and Traina’s assessment that the proposal had “overwhelming support” from residents.
“It’s very hard to create community but it’s very easy to destroy it,” one resident said. “Your position would be much stronger not just by asking people who frequent the cafe but everyone in Stuyvesant Town. The general statement about the ‘overwhelming demand’ just sounds like advertising copy. It doesn’t sound very convincing.”
Hayduk said that management would be willing to put together a survey in the days following the town hall that could be emailed to residents to get their feedback.
Residents supporting the proposal said at the town hall that they don’t feel like the atmosphere in the café would encourage heavy drinking.
“My friends love hanging out below 14th Street and I’ve seen that scene of people drinking a little bit more than maybe they should or than they can handle,” said Kathy Ruiz, a five-year Stuy Town resident. “The thing is that the environment (here) is very different. This is not the kind of place that people will come and say, ‘oh I want to get drunk.’ This is a cute little café. They’ll walk the two blocks down if that’s what they want.”
Stuy Town resident Michele Endich agreed that people looking to get drunk would likely not be coming to the cafe.
“If someone needs eight drinks, they can always carry a flask with them,” Endich said. “I don’t see it being a problem. I think it will be a lovely way to meet and greet. I don’t see it getting out of control.”
Other residents argued that precisely because there are so many bars in the surrounding neighborhood, the addition of beer and wine at the cafe is an unnecessary risk that could jeopardize the peacefulness of the neighborhood.
“I understand the business’s interest in selling beer and wine but I don’t understand the community’s interest in having this happen here,” another resident said, who also noted that he’s a regular customer who enjoys the cafe. “We have many opportunities in this neighborhood to go somewhere and have beer and wine. This is not something we’re lacking but what we have as a tremendously valuable resource is the tranquility of Stuyvesant Town and to put that at risk for one business (doesn’t make sense).”
Hayduk and the cafe’s operators said that the cafe will only be applying for a beer and wine license, and there are no plans to serve hard liquor. Only residents and their guests will be allowed to purchase beer and wine, which will only be available via table service.
Beer and wine would be available starting at 11 a.m. until 30 minutes before closing, which Hayduk said he didn’t specify because he said that the hours for the cafe vary by season, but based on the current closing time of 9 p.m., alcohol wouldn’t be served at the cafe past 8:30.
Management will also be working with an architect to construct some kind of covered structure to diminish noise on the patio. Customers would be allowed to purchase drinks outside the cafe on the patio but won’t be allowed to take alcohol beyond the patio and all drinks would be served in reusable acrylic wine glasses.
Residents also expressed concern about the possibility of customers being overserved, with one resident noting that the combination of alcohol and bikes speeding around the property is an accident waiting to happen. Hayduk said that all cafe employees will be required to complete a training program in which they will learn to identify signs of intoxication and to prevent the sale of alcohol to underage residents.
Hayduk noted that if approved, beer and wine would likely become available by middle to late summer and on a trial basis for 90 days. If the feedback isn’t good, the policy will be reversed.
“There is a level of subjectivity as it relates to us determining if those controls are met,” he said. “The level of subjectivity is going to be balanced for the good of the community but if it’s outweighed by the negatives, then it’s not going to happen. There’s no material gain for us to upset the community so if it doesn’t work, we pull the plug.”