Save Heathers! Beloved E Village Bar Under Attack From NIMBYs

09/21/2011 11:30 AM |


The suburbanization of Manhattan continues! Grub Street reports that Heathers in the East Village has had its liquor license renewal application rejected last night by Community Board 3’s State Liquor Authority committee. You remember Community Board 3, don’t you? They’re the ones who reject liquor licenses left and right and secretly wished they lived in Connecticut, but no, they decide the fates of restaurants and bars all over the East Village and Lower East Side for some reason.

Usually I roll my eyes and ignore them because they’re doing something stupid like denying a small Italian restaurant a liquor license in fear it’ll become a “nightclub.” This is different. This simply shall not stand. Heathers has been in the neighborhood since 2005; it is a bastion for a diverse mix of gay and straight creatives who are looking for a drink in an increasingly frat-like East Village bar scene.

Really, I don’t know what else owner Heather Millstone can do. She’s already soundproofed the bar and has staff shooing away people down the street if they try to smoke outside. The main problems, as a person who has been going to Heathers consistently for years, is a) the bar is on a side street instead of a main avenue b) it’s just too damn popular. The East Village bar scene is basically becoming divided into fancy, $13 cocktail places and beer pong douche-a-ramas. Won’t somebody think of the studio art majors? There are very few bars in the East Village with an artistic bent and affordable drinks, and if Heathers goes, there will be one less reason to leave Brooklyn.

Is this just me bitching because one of my favorite bars is in trouble? Maybe! At least I can always go to Millstone’s other bar, Veronica Peoples Club in Greenpoint. Let’s just hope that she can get it all sorted out and stay open.

8 Comment

  • This doesn’t mean anything. The State Liquor Board is the one who actually renews the license, and they don’t give a shit about CB3’s meaningless nimby gestures. This happens all the time. She’s got nothing to worry about.

    Dude, you’re the restaurant critic, you should know that.

  • @yo yo pa:

    I agree with that prediction, but it’s not fair to the community if we let the NIMBYs be the only voices on the matter when we clearly support the bar, the owner, and the customers. Calling these very motivated complaint tactics “meaningless” is neglectful. We ought to use our democratic privileges (and responsibilities) to represent our opinions in the public forum. Otherwise, eventually, the NIMBYs will be seen as the only people who care, and the NIMBYs will win. So much damage has already been done from these community boards because not enough people (who aren’t epic troll-level NIMBYs) cared about them all this time while the community was evolving and growing. Aside from the pain of the direct results (the constant stream of rejections and criticisms), it’s not right to be dismissive of government and community and pretend it’s just something that’ll take care of itself. I believe in the community boards as a useful construct… we just have to stop pretending that they’re not ours too.

  • @Brian Van Nieuwenhoven – these community boards in Williamsburg and the East Village have already discredited themselves by opposing every single liquor license that comes before them. That’s why SLA doesn’t take them seriously and dismisses their suggestions every time.

    I’m all for people getting more involved in the community and local politics, as I myself am. But this article gives the false impression that Heathers was denied a renewal and faces imminent closure, which is absolutely not the case.

  • Heather’s totally screwed themselves by not handing over white envelopes filled with cash to cb3 members like Webster Hall, a much more problematic establishment has over the years.

  • Yes, by all means, keep a bar that drives longtime residents of the area nuts so people from Brooklyn can come and drink there.


  • @Jack – if they really are “longtime residents of the area,” then the occasional pot smoker or public urinator that they complain about in the Grub St article is a joke compared to the junkies and muggers who were everywhere when they moved to the area.

    Lots of quiet neighborhoods to choose from in NYC, the East Village has never been one of them. If they’re looking for a place without pot smokers, they might try the suburbs of Salt Lake City.

  • Wasn’t it Heathers that had the closed caption camera which implicated the infractions of New York’s finest?

  • Apparently people chatting on a public sidewalk is bad – grounds for revoking a liquor license.

    But violation of New York State Liquor Authority rules is OK? The “multiple drink rule” (also known as the “twofer rule” because selling more than “2 for 1” drinks is prohibited) is not enforced at all around here. There is a well-known bar that advertises prominently on its facade “5 shots of anything for $10” and gets the college crowd looking for a cheap buzz. There is another bar that advertises unlimited pitchers of beer for $10. There are plenty of others also if you look around after learning that the law exists.

    This rule can be found at “…“, and a brief sumary of it is that no licensee may promote “.. such as, but not limited to, offerings of free drinks, or multiple drinks for free or for the price of a single drink, or for a low initial price followed by a price increment per hour or other period of time, or for such a minor amount that in the judgement of the Authority the pricing would constitute an attempt to circumvent the intent and purposes of this section.”

    Bartenders are required to refuse service to an intoxicated patron, but if the customers are being served multiple drinks at once, that’s just not enforcable (by the bartender, at least, the NYSLA could enforce it if they wanted to).

    Maybe conversation in the streets, like what is apparently the issue in the case of “Heather’s” is better for our East Village / LES neighborhood than drunks in the streets. For some reason though, flagrant violation of the multiple drinks law doesn’t seem to bother Community Board 3, but people talking on the streets does. I think they have their priorities backwards. “Follow the money”, perhaps, as an earlier commenter noted.