Citing concerns about noise, late-night hours, and whether or not a mixed-use block on West 8th Street was an "appropriate" new location for Pieces, an iconic gay men’s bar, Community Board 2’s SLA committee voted last night to deny the eighteen-year-old venue its application for a liquor license at the new spot when its lease runs out on Christopher Street. Operator Eric Einstein, who had gathered 4,000 signatures supporting his application, had left NYU’s Silver Building by the time the committee voted around 11:15 p.m. in a seventh floor classroom, resolving to send the app before the full board next month for another hearing.
But two neighborhood opponents stayed to hear the vote: One was an elderly man who told Einstein early in the meeting to "find somewhere else" to relocate. He claimed Pieces’s proposed location on West 8th, two doors away from Gray’s Papaya, would create "chaos and destruction … I’ve been here 44 years. We have children, families who need to sleep at night … and we will oppose you here … with litigation if necessary."
An elderly woman living on Gay Street for 40 years claimed Pieces’ current location was a "magnet" for smokers gathering outdoors and for people engaging in "private sex acts in doorways and basements" leaving behind a"clutter of condoms" on the street. As supporters of the bar groaned in protest, the woman even claimed that Pieces contributed to an increase of rats in the neighborhood. "I’m delighted you’re leaving," she told Einstein, who maintained an air of stoic composure. Laughter and applause erupted when a Village resident, responding to talk of scattered condoms, retorted that he was always pleased to learn "that any man practices safe sex."
But the speakers were made up of more opponents than proponents, among them a member of the West 8th Street Block Association who attacked Einstein for leaking a "private memo" of his to Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, who in turn went on to write about how his "favorite bar is battling neighborhood oppression."
The man called Musto’s column "preposterous," adding that the proposed "late-night bar that would create traffic problems."
Raymond Lee, who chaired the meeting, asked for show of hands pro and con for the application. He told us that 50 were in support and 15 opposed. Supporters said the bar offered a safe and welcoming place for gays to gather and meet friends in Greenwich Village and contended it had hosted numerous events for charities. "It’s a place where I feel I belong to a community," said Dylan Pass, who wore a business suit to the meeting and described himself as an executive.