Dec. 16, 2015 By Michael Florio
Following a jumbled conversation about crowds and noise issues at Sweet Afton, Community Board 1 disapproved the bar’s application for outdoor seating.
Sweet Afton, located at 30-09 34th St., brought its application to operate an unenclosed sidewalk café with six tables and 12 chairs before CB 1 last night.
However, the Board believed that Sweet Afton was a very crowded bar and argued that the additional outdoor seats would just add to this problem.
When presenting the bar’s application, manager Rob Mohally initially stated that Sweet Afton holds roughly 140 customers; its capacity is 74. Although he later clarified that he meant the bar could serve up to 140 customers per night – not all at once – his original statement was enough to raise board members’ hackles.
Board members voiced concerns that a large crowd leads to people hanging out in front of the bar, creating noise and trash in the area.
Mohally said that the crowd at Sweet Afton has never been an issue, stating that he has a security guard that monitors both the inside and outside of the bar.
“We do this to keep the noise at a minimum,” he said. “We know this is important to the community and always work to be good neighbors.”
The bar currently has 44 seats inside and an additional 25 in the backyard, according to Mohally.
However, Board members worried that additional seats would lead to a larger crowd, which could lead to additional noise.
John Katsanos, chairman of CB 1’s Community Affairs committee, which handles these applications, added that the Board received 10 complaints about noise through email from neighbors. Two residents who spoke last night added to these concerns.
Eugene Kuljanic, landlord of a neighboring 25-unit building at 30-11 34th St., said tenants regularly complain about the noise.
“I constantly am getting calls from tenants,” he said. “There are parties in the backyard and they are loud all night.”
Another resident, who has lived in the apartment building next to the establishment since August, said he has concerns about outdoor seating leading to noise both at night and in the morning.
His concern is that customers using the outdoor seats will make noise throughout the night and then the brunch crowd will sit out there in the morning and wake up residents.
“I’m afraid I will be kept up at night and then woken up in the morning,” the resident, who did not wish to give his name because he is a frequent visitor of the bar, said.
Concerns about the number of customers at Sweet Afton led Board members to also question security, and whether the bar has enough bathrooms, among other concerns.
One Board member took issue with what he characterized as nitpicking questions.
“We are going above and beyond what this man is here for and it is wrong,” he said.
Another said her backyard is connected to the bar’s and that they are good neighbors.
“Sometimes there is noise but it’s not like they wake me up at night,” she said. “He misspoke tonight [about capacity] but they are fine neighbors.”
Mohally said he works with neighbors to make sure the noise is at a minimum and encourages them to reach out to him when it is too noisy. He added that the backyard closes around 11 p.m., to accommodate neighbors.
In response to CB 1’s concerns, Mohally said he would sign a stipulation stating that the outdoor café would close at 11 p.m., similar to the backyard.
Despite this, the Board’s consumer affairs committee voted to reject this proposal in a tight six to five vote.
The full board then also voted against the outdoor seating application, with 23 members voting against the proposal, 15 voting for it and 11 members absent.
CB 1’s recommendation is non-binding and will be submitted to the Department of Consumer Affairs, which will now review the application. Outdoor seating applications ultimately go to the City Council for a vote.
Mohally would not comment on the Board’s decision, however, he told the Astoria Post that the bar would continue forward with the application process.
He added that he still feels confident despite the Board’s decision.