L I T T L E   I T A L Y
N E I G H B O R S   A S S O C I A T I O N   ( L I N A )

c a f e   h a b a n a   h e a r i n g

NOTICE: A 500 FOOT RULE HEARING is scheduled for CAFE HABANA, which is applying to upgrade its wine/beer license to a liquor license
WHEN: Tuesday, July 18th, 11 a.m. (it should last about 1 hour)
WHERE: State Liquor Authority, 7th Floor Board Room, 11 PARK PLACE, between Church and Warren Sts.

Come support your neighbors and L I N A members who will speak in opposition to this license.

THANKS to all of you for you who have sent letters of opposition to L I N A, CB2, and our elected officials re. the new liquor license application by Cafe Habana, 229 Elizabeth St. Letters make an enormous difference. It is not too late for the rest of you to send them. In fact, we need them urgently.

Please e-mail them to Suzanne Williamson at suzanne@dti.net, or fax them to the L I N A fax #: 646-613-1923 (new local area code). We will submit them to the SLA 500-foot Rule Hearing Judge next week.


1. BAD FAITH DEALING: The Habana owners have attempted to circumvent the Community Board by telling them they would meet and negotiate with neighbors, and then return to the Board's committee. But instead, without such consultation, they proceeded to apply for a liquor license with the State Liquor Authority, and did not notify the board that they had done so. THIS IS THE SECOND INSTANCE THIS PAST YEAR WHEN THE APPLICANTS HAVE TRIED TO BYPASS COMMUNITY AND COMMUNITY BOARD INPUT OR OPPOSITION.

2. NATURE OF THE ESTABLISHMENT: Habana is a very successful, trendy, noisy restaurant in a small, narrow space. Its physical structure presents serious problems for the neighborhood. It has no waiting area inside, so patrons are forced to wait outside, talking and blocking the sidewalk. It is understood, even by the SLA, that people drinking liquor create more noise. Loitering and bar-hopping among the more than 10 other nearby establishments will become more common. Also, the long counter which will become the bar serving area is near the constantly open windows on Prince St. It is illegal to have a bar serving area near an open window.

3. PROBLEMS EXISTING SINCE THE OPENING: In spite of requests and concerns, the owners have not corrected them or negotiated to correct them as a condition of receiving their license. Immediate residents and L I N A did speak to the owners about:

  • NOISE from music and patrons through open windows and doors all day and night until closing. Residents in the building and the surrounding corner complain.
  • SIDEWALK OBSTRUCTION, INCREASED TRAFFIC, BAD SANITATION MANAGEMENT, due to the owner's inability or unwillingness to manage patrons on the sidewalk waiting to get in. Also, the increase is due to the increased number of licensed establishments in the area.
  • EXHAUST NOISE AND VENTING PROBLEMS recently created a fire hazard on the building roof, and received a Fire Department Violation.

4. NATURE OF THE LOCATION: On a corner of a heavily trafficked, heavily residential part of Little Italy, with low tenement buildings that reverberate with noise. The sidewalks are narrowed by trees and up to three illegal benches in front of Habana and the new Habana To Go, yet owners cannot get patrons out of the way. There are already eight (8) licensed establishments within 500 feet: Peasant; Paninoteca; Velvet; Eight Mile Creek; Mekong; Bistrot Margot; Rialto Bar/Restaurant; M&R Bar. Peasant and Eight Mile Creek received licenses this year. Many others exist just outside the area.

It was a bad idea two years ago, and it still is. A liquor license for Habana is not in the public interest. Habana is problematic as a place serving wine and beer, impossible with a liquor license.


On July 12, the Community Board Two Executive Committee passed a resolution of opposition to the liquor license application by Cafe Habana.

The current and former chairs of the Business Committee stated that Sean Meenan had come before their committee, and had agreed to meet with neighbors and members of the community, and come back to the CB2 committee before applying for a license. Instead, as they learned, Cafe Habana immediately filed an application on the day after that meeting. CB2's next notification came when they received notice of a 500-foot rule hearing before the SLA.

L I N A submitted letters, which were delivered to Habana and its lawyer on July 10, stating that we wished and had expected to arrange a meeting among the neighbors, the owners, and L I N A. L I N A received no response to those letters.

CB2's opposition will be based on the applicant's actions, the flurry of letters received by the office complaining about operational problems, and the original opposition approximately two years ago. Most of the concerns from two years ago remain or have been confirmed by the restaurant's careless behavior.