At last nights Community Board Six meeting, the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club put their game on hold after it was clear the board could vote against their liquor license application. The nights meeting started off with an easy approval for Bellhouse to renew its sidewalk seating area. The calm approval of the beloved music venue in ‘no mans land’ Gowanus, quickly turned sour as the topic of the Royal Palms Shuffleboard venue came forth. A large standing room only crowd both for and against provided the backdrop for a very dramatic evening. Jonathan and Ashley from the Royal Palms began by providing details about their unique venue. The 17k square foot space would only be requesting an occupancy for 500 people because 7k square feet of their space would be Shuffleboard lanes that patrons could not walk on, while games were going on. Jonathan and Ashley indicated what they saw their venue as a place (during the day) for:
Seniors and kids to play on… 1970 Florida style…vintage shuffleboard.”
Jonathan and Ashley also explain they had repeatedly met with the residents across the street from their venue on Union Street. Some residents of Union Street (between 3rd Avenue & Nevins), known as Union Organized, had a list of problems with the venue, which mostly related to the venues new large population. These problems included the patron smokers and those waiting to get in being out front of the venue, the concept of the venue having patrons on the roof, the sound of the people and music, the late night hours of the venue, and the liquor license. Jonathan and Ashley of the Royal Palms had responding to these concerns by providing solutions to all, but one of them. These were explained by Jonathan and Ashley at the CB6 meeting and included having a courtyard away from the front for people to smoke in, having the waiting area to get in – actually inside the venue, delaying the roof access part of their business for 6 months to prove they were good neighbors, extensive discussion with a sound engineering firm to stop sound pollution, and the closing of their venue at 2am as oppose to 4am. The only issue that remained was the liquor license itself. The liquor issue most likely was the real or at least main issue for the Union Organized group. When members of the group spoke to GYFO last month and at the CB6 meeting they all indicated there was a’bad crowd’ that comes along with liquor. Specifically at the meeting a women named Rosemary explained that ‘we’:
have no problem with Shuffleboarding…no problem with [Ashley or Jonathan]….we just oppose the liquor!”
A support of the venue who spoke at the meeting was Kimberly, a Park Slope resident, who said the Royal Palms venue would be like the:
Mirror Lake Club in St. Petersberg, [Florida]… like the scene from the movie Cocoon”
But at the meeting more people who opposed the venue seem to be randomly selected to speak than those who supported the venue. This created lots of tention in the room with many supporters wildly shaking their hands to be called on. It also created an illusion that most of the audience at the meeting were opposed to the Shuffleboard Club. This misgiving was clarified with a request by CB6 for a show of hands of supports and those against the venue. The hand count indicated that there were more supporters in the room, but a followup question on proximity to the venue showed that mostly those who objected were closer to the venue. A member of the board reminded the audience that this is not too uncommon.
Then the moment of truth arrived after lots of detailed followup questions and some comments that involved having the location near the Bellhouse instead of on Union Street and a comment about Dinosaur BBQ that is set to open just down the street. A single board member put forth approval for the liquor license with a few requirements. The approval vote include the dropping the occupancy to 300, shuttling people to and from the subway via bus, that the Shuffleboard owner would have to come back later to CB6 for roof approval, and a requirement of vegetation on the roof to help with sound issues. The requirement of shuttling people in was removed after it was noted how close a subway stop was to the venue. A show of hands from the board indicated how this particular vote would go. Only 2 members approved the liquor license under this measure. Jonathan and Ashley quickly withdraw their application, so that the vote could not be finalized.
And with that the fate of the liquor license and the venue itself was put on hold.
The large crowd quickly left the room allowing for the rest of the CB6 meeting on permits to continue. In the hallway things were not exactly pleasant. As reporters were pushing for comments, those for and against got into heated argument over what had taken place in the meeting.
Some of the supporters in the hallways were small business owners in the area and were shocked by the fact that the Royal Palms had made so many concessions only to be opposed no matter what by the Union Organized group. It was a very unpleasant environment until the crowd was finally corralled out of the building by a building staff member. Out front people simple left or moved away from each other to stop arguments.
We asked Jonathan of the Royal Palms how he felt about what had just happened in the meeting. Jonathan said:
Really disappointed. We feel we have come up with lots of compromises and thought we had come up with some agreement, but…you know, we are still interested and really willing to find a way to make this work”
Ashley of the Royal Palms sounded even more upbeat despite what look to be a defeat of their Shuffleboard venue. Ashley said:
their just not seeing our vision… fear is pushing their opinions. We [wish] we could fly the board…and neighbors down to the Mirror Lake Club…. Even with Alcohol its a really good time”
Outside Daniel of Union Organized explained the fight had just begun against the Shuffleboard Club:
many people against are just out of town… [next meeting]… we are going to be stronger and have way more people.”
So there it is. A fight that is far from over with what appears to be a uncomprimising situation.
Cake and Eat it too
What seems a little confusing for supporters and even for an observers, is that the Shuffleboard venue is zoned for commercial use. The venue, which was used for industrial production before, has not been able to get the same type of business.
So, what is the space to be used for if it is not bringing in industrial businesses?
This is a question for CB6 to sort out, since the board has kept it a mixed used block, even though a change for it to be residential has been discussed. The issue of mixed use zones in the area is becoming a problem for CB6 because Gowanus has become a popular place for all types of businesses and for people to live in. New small businesses have popped up all over and there has been a dramatic increase in population. It seems like the northern part of Gowanus is objectively more residential than the southern part of Gowanus, but that does not mean there is no residential in the southern part of the neighborhood. In the meeting both the board and the Union Organized said being down by Bellhouse, which is in the southern part of Gowanus, would be a better area for the Shuffleboard club because its ‘off the beaten path’. A block over from Bellhouse actually has residential houses. There may not be as many residential houses as on Union Street, but there are houses none the less.
Also, there is some confusion as why some of the Union Organized members are welcoming to the Dinosaur BBQ that will be just down the street from their homes closer to 4th Avenue. It seems a bit odd that residence are fine with a chain restaurant that will need a liquor license and will bringing in tourist population that will be unaware of the quant street they are visiting.
On the other hand the Royal Palms is being run by people who do not have expeince with large venues with alcohol. This fact put off some members of the board from the start. But the question of what type of person has even run a large shuffleboard venue in a city like New York was left unanswered. The board requested that a general manager with experience be presented.
The Shuffleboard club also has to face the overall issue of Gowanus’s watershed. Only one member of the public pointed this out last night, but this issue is something the board will have to discuss with rise in population and the approval of similar large venues in the area.
The battle seems very far from over. The Royal Palms plans on coming back in the near future with more solutions to appease the board and get their liquor license. Only time will tell how this all unfolds.
Note: this report has been filed by someone who is in support of the Royal Palms receiving a liquor license. This is noted because GYFO tries its best to be objective in conflicts in the neighborhood. If you feel that this report has a bias for or even against the Shuffleboard venue please feel free to send comments to [email protected] GYFO is willing, unlike other media, to post comments or full responses about this piece or any issues involving the Royal Palms Shuffleboard.