Board O.K.’s Chairless Lounge
Are New Yorkers ready to eat their filet mignon lying down? The owners of B.E.D., a chair-free Miami restaurant and lounge, think so, and so they are looking to export their horizontal concept to the Flatiron district.
B.E.D. New York’s parent company, MelBel Enterprises (which is buying licensing rights to the Miami lounge’s concept), is in the process of applying for an on-premises liquor-license transfer for 45 West 21st Street, presently home of the 18,000-square-foot nightclub Centro-Fly. Back in January, MelBel’s President Edward Belkin, and Centro-Fly owner Tom Sisk introduced plans for the new space at Community Board 5’s public-safety and quality-of-life committee meeting. On Feb. 12, the full board voted to approve the license transfer, though with a number of stipulations.
B.E.D.’s reputation precedes it: The original Miami boîte, located in South Beach, is an infamous hot spot. The 2004 “night life” issue of Ocean Drive magazine described B.E.D.’s Monday-night party as drawing “barely legal girls with killer bods in halter tops and tight leather minis, as well as major sports icons and rap and hip-hop superstars.”
Instead of barstools and banquettes, the club’s furniture consists of giant beds affixed to the floor, complete with sheets, pillows and gauze curtains. Snuggling patrons can order dinner and drinks-ranging from lobster tail to $1,700 bottles of Cristal-which is served on rattan trays. A fictional Manhattan B.E.D. was featured in a recent episode of Sex and the City , with a newly-slim Miranda frolicking on a mattress with a hunky man during a girls’ night out.
Given its rep, it might seem surprising that B.E.D. is being welcomed at all, especially into the Flatiron district, a neighborhood notoriously overrun by nightclubs. But MelBel said that the company envisions a more moderate establishment for its New York incarnation. And what it all ultimately boils down to, public-safety and quality-of-life committee member Suzanne Esper explained, is that the board is hedging its bets.
“I think the board felt there’s probably going to be a license there-we’re not going to get around that-but [B.E.D.] would be an improvement in terms of the numbers [of clubgoers] the neighborhood would face,” Ms. Esper told The Observer . “Sometimes you can try to get in businesses that are at least better than the ones that currently exist, and gradually change the nature of the neighborhood.”
Ms. Esper suggested that the pricey cuisine would attract a more subdued crowd than Centro-Fly’s current clientele-one of the committee’s reasons for recommending approval of the license transfer. Furthermore, she pointed out, Centro-Fly’s 2,500-square-foot basement party room would be converted into a holding area for any crowds, preventing lines from forming on the sidewalk outside. Additionally, at the meeting, MelBel made assurances to the committee that the sound system would be downgraded, diminishing the bass level, and the 20 or so anticipated beds would reduce any dance space. MelBel also emphasized that the new club wouldn’t be run in the same fashion as the one in Miami-promoters wouldn’t be used, and there would be no live music. MelBel representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.
But not everyone agreed that B.E.D. would be an improvement. At the Feb. 12 meeting, neighborhood resident Elizabeth Geiger addressed board members, imploring them to reject the application based on the Miami club’s randy reputation. “B.E.D. is not a restaurant,” she stressed. Also representing the opposing view was board member Maxine Teitler. Ms. Teitler raised concerns about noise levels and B.E.D.’s plans for serving breakfast in bed until 10 a.m., well past MelBel’s stated closing time of 5 a.m.
Ms. Esper told The Observer that, while the breakfast-in-bed feature might not be ideal, having patrons inside was preferable to having them out on the street. “If people fall asleep on those beds late at night and they want to have bacon and eggs before going out, they’ll serve them bacon and eggs,” she said.
The board’s stipulations related to garbage pickup, street traffic and pre-notification to the board of any changes to the liquor license or lease transfer. MelBel has also signed an affidavit addressing neighborhood concerns, which will be attached to the liquor-license application as it wends its way through the State Liquor Authority. The club falls within the moratorium area that was established by the board, from 20th to 22nd streets between Fifth and Sixth avenues, to limit new liquor licenses. Applications for licenses within that zone receive additional scrutiny from the board. The timing of B.E.D.’s opening is uncertain, partially due to recent rumblings within the Bloomberg administration about overhauling the city’s 78-year-old cabaret law.
Lays Claim to 58th Street Address
Kids in New York City-whether they’re from moneyed or disadvantaged backgrounds-frequently run into trouble with drugs. And although there are local options available for helping them kick the habit, parents (if they have the means) often elect to send their children out of the city to clean up their act. Unfortunately, though, when the youngsters return to put their lives back together, their old friends and pushers are here to greet them and lure the newly sober back to their bad habits.
Enter the Caron Foundation, a Wernersville, Penn.-based nonprofit drug-treatment program, which plans to open a new outpatient center in a newly renovated office building at 244 East 58th Street at Third Avenue this coming April. Community Board 6, in its Feb. 11 meeting, gave the nod to the foundation to open the Caron New York Recovery Center, an outpatient facility that will cater to an exclusively adolescent client base. The center will serve kids who have completed other treatment programs and offer Alcoholics Anonymous–type meetings, psychiatric consultations and individual therapy.
According to Dr. Madeleine Tramm, regional vice president of the Caron Foundation, the abstinence-based treatment center-whose staff of 12 is expected to serve a client load of 30 to 40-will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. for after-school programs. Asked by The Observer about the kinds of addiction problems she expects the center to treat, Ms. Tramm said: “The trends change. Heroin is very big now, cocaine’s coming back, and alcohol is always around. Cigarettes and marijuana are real gateway drugs.”
Not everyone at the board meeting was happy with the plan. Jenny Gruber, a board member who sits on the human-services committee, addressed the assembly in the moments before the vote. Among her objections to the proposed opening is the fact that the center, in addition to being located in a largely residential neighborhood, will be within two blocks of two public schools: P.S. 59 and the High School of Art and Design. She expressed concern about “students and patients mixing, and perhaps communicating and getting involved with some of the activities that … the patients are being treated for,” and added that there are fast-food restaurants and a bus stop on the same block-places where young adults tend to congregate. In addition, she expressed fears that the neighborhood’s single women might become easy targets for troubled youth, especially given the center’s policy of not turning away clients with criminal backgrounds. Lastly, she pointed out, “many of the buildings in the neighborhood don’t have doormen …. There’s concern about patients loitering on people’s stoops.”
Ms. Tramm disputed those concerns, telling The Observer that kids who will be involved in the center’s programs are less likely to get involved in trouble than other kids hanging out in front of the school. “There will be very strict rules about staying in the program and being in the program,” she said, “and if they don’t follow these rules, they’ll be kicked out.” She pointed out that there will be security guards hired by the center to make sure there’s no loitering in front of the building, and added that many of the kids in the program will be accompanied by their parents.
Moreover, drugs, drug abusers and people trying to kick the habit are nothing new to the city, Ms. Tramm pointed out. “There’s drugs everywhere in New York,” she said, “and there’s also thousands of A.A. groups and [Narcotics Anonymous] groups, and thousands and thousands of people that go to these groups and stay sober.” According to Ms. Tramm, the foundation chose this particular property because of its central location in Manhattan, which will allow easy access for the center’s clients, in addition to the building’s availability and price.
The Caron Foundation addressed community concerns in meetings with Board 6’s human-services committee, held before the full board’s vote. In these meetings, the foundation agreed to set up a community advisory group to make sure that residents and center officials can communicate their concerns to each other and, if necessary, deal with any problems. The center and Board 6’s human-services committee are scheduled to meet Feb. 19 to iron out the details.
Now that it has received approval from Board 6, the center is awaiting inspection by the Buildings Department to make sure it meets code-the last hurdle before the facility can officially open. But despite the Caron Foundation’s show of good faith, Ms. Gruber remains skeptical and plans to keep an eye on the project to make certain the Foundation keeps its word. “We’ll have to wait and see how it goes,” she told The Observer .
Feb. 18: Board 8, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, 430 East 67th Street, auditorium, 7 p.m., 212-758-4340.
Feb. 19: Board 9, 565 West 125th Street, ground floor, 6:30 p.m., 212-864-6200.