Bars, Local Issues - Red Hook, Quality of Life Issues

Beard Street Compromise? by Sarah Matusek

The former Dell Cherry facility at 158 Beard St.

Community Board 6’s (CB6) Permits & Licenses committee meeting on June 26 voted four yeas and one nay to the approval of an on-premise liquor license for Narrow Water Brewing at 158 Beard St., contingent upon a stipulation that addresses some community concerns.

The bar agreed to only stay open until 11 p.m. from Sunday through Wednesday and 1 a.m. from Thursday through Saturday and it won’t have an outdoor space, according to Mike Racioppo, the committee Chair.

“The way this meeting went is why I am member of the community board,” Racioppo told the Star-Revue. Racioppo said he found the stipulation struck a promising balance between business and neighborhood issues.

The concern about Narrow Water Brewing’s waste water management was not addressed.

CB6 member Victoria Hagman spoke up in support of the application. She is noted as the listing agent for the commercial lease at 158 Beard St., according to the Commercial Search website.

Some Beard Street residents see Hagman’s vocal support of Narrow Water Brewing – without disclosing her relationship to the bar – as a conflict of interest.

Hagman was not immediately available for comment.

Reporter’s Notebook – June 25
On a recent Sunday evening, Edna Mieles and her son sat outside their Beard Street stoop.

Between 7 and 8 p.m., they counted no fewer than 100 taxis cruise their quiet block between Van Brunt and Conover. The cars hovered like sharks, waiting for weekend revelers to spill out of three bars that flank this mostly residential street.

The owner of Greenpoint brewpub Keg & Lantern Brewing Company has applied for an on-premise liquor license to open a similar establishment on 158 Beard St.

“As much as we are pro-business, this is not the business we want on our block…Our lives matter,” Mieles says.

Mieles, a third generation Red Hook resident, joins other Beard Street dwellers in opposition to the new bar. Narrow Water Brewing, the bar’s trade name, would inevitably increase the traffic, noise, and waste that members of the block have already been dealt by the current watering holes.

Inebriated visitors have urinated and vomited on her property, says Mieles. For the first time in her life, she has had to consider protecting her home by putting up a fence.

Mieles also worries about the waste the new bar would generate – and Beard Street’s incapacity to process it.

“Our infrastructure won’t be able to handle the waste water,” Mieles says. “There are sometimes I can’t even flush the toilet.”

Beard Street residents were able to meet with Keg & Lantern owner, Kieran Breen, and his lawyer earlier in June. Mieles says she appreciated learning about the bar’s plans straight from the source. Locals can collaborate with liquor license applicants to reach compromises around a bar’s operations, but Mieles is pessimistic about any such promises being kept.

If Narrow Water Brewing receives a liquor license, will Mieles push back? She doesn’t mince her words.

“Absolutely,” she says. “We’re going to fight this tooth and nail.”

Breen is fully aware of his bar’s unwelcome reception on the street.

Breen says he is willing to cooperate with residents to reach compromises.

158 Beard St.’s manufacturing history attracted Breen (the site is a former Dell’s Maraschino Cherries facility). The bar owner will primarily use his Red Hook outpost to create new brews. “We’d like our focus to be on sour beers and aged beers,” says Breen.

Breen’s attention is more on concocting new beers, not the tasting room.

“Probably 30% [of the space] would be used for a tasting room. And the rest dedicated for a brewing operation,” says Breen. He points out that the liquor license he’s pursuing, a restaurant-brewer’s license, requires that his brewpub have a restaurant.

When Keg & Lantern opened in 2009, Greenpoint Gazette reported, Breen re-hired workers whose jobs at the former establishment – a Polish cafe – had terminated when Breen bought the space. Similarly, he hopes to engage Red Hook locals to help operate Narrow Water Brewing instead of importing current employees.

Local businesses respond
“More power to them,” says Triciann Botta, in support of Narrow Water Brewing, which she considers a “hipster” enterprise.

Botta owns Botta Di Vino wine shop on Van Brunt a few blocks from Breen’s potential brewpub. Despite a petition against the bar in circulation among local businesses, Botta was unaware of the liquor license application until asked for comment by the Star-Revue.

“I get it…People like to come here to drink because it’s close to the water,” says Botta. “It’s funny – alcohol seems to gravitate here.”

Another Van Brunt Street business owner, who asked for anonymity, signed the petition purely in support of her Beard Street friends. She hesitates getting too involved, she says, because the dispute seems “too political.”


Correction, July 5: The print version of this article listed Hagman as the broker for the 158 Beard St. lease, when in fact she is named as the listing agent, according to Commercial Search. 

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