Community Board 1 (CB1) is siding with Tribeca residents who are opposed to a not-so-new bar coming to their block. The tavern in question is Raccoon Lodge, which opened in the early 1980s at 59 Warren Street (between Church Street and West Broadway), when the neighborhood was a near-ghost town. Its name is a reference to the fraternal organization on the Honeymooners television show, in which members Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton would greet each other by wiggling the tails on their coonskin hats.
Fast forward three decades, and the building that houses the bar is one of six adjoining structures now slated to be torn down to make way for a new condominium tower. For this reason, Raccoon Lodge will close its doors at the end of June.
But the owners of the popular nightspot want the party to continue. So they’ve signed a lease at 20 Warren (between Church Street and Broadway), for a space that was once occupied by a Latin music nightspot, Club 2020, and later by a restaurant called Tara’s. Here, they plan to reopen there (under a new name: “The Lodge”), as soon as they can get a liquor license. Their application requests permission to remain open until 4:00 am, seven nights per week.
Warren Street resident Seth Haber: “We believe that the name change from the Raccoon Lodge to the Lodge is nothing more than a trojan horse, because they know they will not get the liquor license they request if they tell you it is a bar, not a restaurant.”
Not so fast, say residents of the stretch of Warren where the Lodge plans to relocate. Seth Haber, a resident of 22 Warren, spoke at the May 24 meeting of CB1, while holding his infant son, Adam. “If this liquor license is approved,” he said, “Adam’s front door will become a smoking section for Raccoon Lodge and he’ll have to walk through it every day to come home.”
Mr. Haber continued, “we are here representing 50 families,” whom he asked to stand, whereupon most of the audience rose to their feet. “We believe that the name change from the Raccoon Lodge to the Lodge is nothing more than a trojan horse, because they know they will not get the liquor license they request if they tell you it is a bar, not a restaurant.”
At its current location, “Raccoon Lodge has about 20 feet in either direction to a residential front door,” Mr. Haber noted. “We have about two and a half feet between our door and the door of the proposed bar. When Adam comes home, he’s going to have to ask people he doesn’t know, potentially intoxicated, to please move from the front door so he can get in.”
Warren Street resident Susan Duffy: “This is not a cultural institution. Maybe it was at some point, but now it’s just a rowdy bar.”
“You’re not allowed to smoke at a bar,” Mr. Haber added. “And people will come out front. That smoke will push into our lobby, up our elevator shaft, and into our homes. I don’t think that’s fair.”
Susan Duffy, a resident of 19-21 Warren Street, which is located directly across the street from the Lodge’s proposed new home, said, “our building has eight families with 15 young children and three more on the way. We always have babies in the building. We’re a very fertile group.”
“I want to speak from the heart,” she said. “We lived through years of Club 2020 and it did not draw nearly the size of Raccoon Lodge crowd. This will mean loud blaring music with doors wide open and crowds of 10 or 12 smoking out front, with rowdy people spilling out of the bar at all hours.”
“I don’t think we should be asked to accept that,” Ms. Duffy continued. “This is not some new bar coming into our neighborhood. We know what it is and we know what is coming to our block.”
CB1 member Adam Malitz: “While I support the idea that people want to live in peace. I’m a little bit depressed. Because every day, it seems like another business that we love goes under. But we don’t want to deal with the consequences of living in a city and dealing with these institutions. I’m sad about the Raccoon Lodge and other really great local businesses.”
CB1 member Adam Malitz voiced another side to the issue. “I grew up in Tribeca, on Greenwich Street,” he said. “I just want to lament the demise of many of our cultural institutions. Nobody wants a bar anywhere near their apartment. We all want to live in this vibrant, awesome city and we want the coolest institutions ever, and we all get upset when a pharmacy or a bank opens. But the truth is that if a space is not occupied by a cool bar or a cool restaurant, it’s likely going to be one of those others that can afford to pay the rents.”
“I’m a retail broker,” Mr. Malitz continued, “and I know what it’s like to try to rent in this neighborhood. Tribeca is a horrible retail market. It’s just one of the worst places to open a retail business, in terms of staying in business, because the failure rate is so high.”
“While I support the idea that people want to live in peace, I’m a little bit depressed,” he reflected. “Because every day, it seems like another business that we love goes under. But we don’t want to deal with the consequences of living in a city and dealing with these institutions. I’m sad about the Raccoon Lodge and other really great local businesses.”
Mr. Haber countered, “I agree that it’s sad Tribeca is bad place for business, but it probably has more to do with how much the landlords are charging for rent for those spaces than it does with the lack of a vibrant community.”
Ms. Duffy added, “this is not a cultural institution. Maybe it was at some point, but now it’s just a rowdy bar.”
CB1 as a whole was apparently persuaded by arguments against granting a liquor license to the Lodge. At the May 24 meeting, the board passed a resolution saying that, “CB1 opposes the grant of a liquor license at 20 Warren Street,” with 37 votes in favor, zero opposed and one abstention. The matter now goes before the State Liquor Authority, which is legally required to consider (but is not bound by) CB1’s resolution.