Oval Cafe (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Sabina Mollot
That was fast.
A rep for CWCapital, who’d been scheduled to request a wine and beer license for Oval Café on Thursday, pulled that request on Tuesday.
The license request for the Stuyvesant Town coffee joint had been scheduled to take place at a meeting of Community Board 6. However, by Tuesday afternoon, that application was scrapped due to a timing issue by that representative, Spencer Rothchild of Barrio Foods consulting firm, said Sandro Sherrod, the chair of CB6.
Sherrod, who’s also a resident of Stuy Town, said he didn’t want to comment on the license request until he actually heard the proposal. And the request could be made again at another time.
A spokesperson for CWCapital said the application was pulled pending consultation with community leaders.
However, this was after the plan was blasted by John Marsh, president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, and Council Member Dan Garodnick.
Garodnick told Town & Village he’d made his feelings known to CWCapital expressing how “wholly inappropriate” he believes it is to have alcoholic drinks sold at the Oval.
“To change (the café) to a place where people congregate for beers changes the entire establishment to something different and makes it less family friendly,” said Garodnick early on Tuesday.
He added that he was annoyed about having to find out about the plan not from CW but from CB6. Still, he said he hoped management would rethink the plan.
“They were responsive when we raised concerns about the Public Safety office and I hope they will consider this as well in the community’s interest,” he said. This was in reference to management’s agreeing to remove a driveway from in front of the new Public Safety office for the officers’ vehicles in response to residents’ complaints.
Though he stressed he was speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the Tenants Association, Marsh also said he opposed a liquor license in a post on the TA’s Facebook page.
“I feel like if you want a drink go back to your apartment or to a neighborhood restaurant or bar,” he said. “The Oval is a place that was designed for peace and quiet. Coffee is one thing. Alcohol is another.”
Local blog Stuyvesant Town Report also blasted the plan, saying it would encourage rowdy behavior. CW, the author wrote, “should be thoroughly embarrassed.”
Following the news about the application being pulled, Garodnick said, “We appreciate that CompassRock has pulled this application. Selling beer and wine in the Oval Café could have very harmful consequences and we are relieved that management has taken a step back.”
Susan Steinberg, chair of the TA, added that even though the application has been pulled for the time being, tenants should still let CB6 know if they have something to say about it.
“Of course, the TA is pleased that the application was withdrawn and will be given more consideration,” she said. “There are many issues to be addressed and reasons why such a license is troubling. In the meantime, it is extremely important that residents with concerns email their comments to the CB6 (firstname.lastname@example.org) because these comments will be held for the future should the license be reapplied for.”
Not everyone had been against the idea though.
A longtime Stuy Town resident, Kay Vota, told T&V, “I don’t have a problem with it as long as people act responsibly.”
Still, she said she guessed there would be some controversy.
“You can please some of the people some of the time but you can’t please everybody all the time, and in Stuyvesant Town you never have anything new where people don’t have something to say about it.”
Another resident, who’s lived in Stuy Town for four years, David Burstein, also said he didn’t think it would have been a problem.
“The whole neighborhood is surrounded by bars; I don’t think it would have been detrimental. I think people would be respectful and appropriate about it,” he said. Burstein added that for cafés, it’s “tough to stay afloat” without selling alcohol. “It’s the reality of the world we are living in.”
Since its opening in the summer of 2012, Oval Café has sold coffee, pastries and sandwiches and in the summer, offered a clear view of sunbathers on the lawn.
Ironically, though there was never a liquor license previously at Oval Café or the amenity space that came before it, Oval Lounge, it was once the site of a bar-style brawl. It was there where brokers for then-owner Tishman Speyer got into a fight at a private party, with one getting bashed over the head with a beer bottle.
This article was updated to include an additional comment from Council Member Garodnick, a comment from Susan Steinberg and information from Sandro Sherrod and CWCapital.