PARK SLOPE – Brooklyn Community Board 6 (CB6) once again voted against approving the renewal of a liquor license application for Woodland, a contentious restaurant/bar located at 242 Flatbush Avenue at the corner of 6th Avenue.
Since opening in May 2012, the venue has been the source of a multitude of complaints in the community, ranging from public drunkenness to loud music and violence.
Woodland’s owner, Akiva Ofshtein, told BKLYNER over the telephone that he has always been “amenable to making many changes every year and working with the community” to address their complaints.
At the CB6 General Board meeting on Wednesday, March 14, the Chair of the Permits & Licenses committee, Michael Racioppo, said the committee unanimously voted to disapprove the venue’s liquor license renewal at a previous committee meeting held on February 26.
During the February meeting, neighbors took turns voicing their complaints about Woodland, including crowding on the sidewalk in front of the venue; patrons vomiting, urinating, and engaging in sexual activity on nearby streets; and noise complaints, particularly in the venue’s back garden area during the warmer months. Locals have been complaining about these same issues since Woodland opened, Racioppo said.
At the committee meeting, Ofshtein says that he and Pedro Yamazaki (Woodland’s General Manager) presented their renewal application and offered the following solutions to recent community concerns:
- Ensuring that members of their security team are easily identifiable, wearing clothing clearly marked “Security”
- Using crowd control posts and barriers to keep the large crowds from blocking the sidewalks
- Stationing an additional security guard at the corner of 6th & St. Marks Avenues during weekend brunch hours in an effort to monitor patrons after they’ve left the venue and maintain peace on the surrounding streets. [Woodland offers a $20 “bottomless mimosas” brunch on weekends. These times are the most problematic for neighbors and most complaints tend to be made during brunch hours.]
Ofshtein told BKLYNER these measures were implemented following the February meeting and adds, “Every one of these steps costs the business money.” Yamazaki provided the photographs below.
These efforts to appease Woodland’s neighbors “were not enough,” Ofshtein says. Members of the committee suggested Woodland’s backyard hours be restricted—closing one hour earlier. Ofshtein says during the Spring/Summer the outdoor space currently closes at 11pm Sunday through Thursday and at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
The CB6 committee also suggested that Woodland open later on Sundays, at 4pm instead of noon, until conditions improve and the number of complaints decrease. This change would significantly cut into the restaurant’s lucrative Sunday brunch business.
While Ofshtein says he would have considered closing the backyard space an hour earlier, he refused to cut four hours from one of Woodland’s peak periods. “I don’t think they’re being reasonable,” he said.
“I have made as many concessions as a business can make,” he insists, saying over the years he’s stopped playing music in the backyard and has removed the bar from the outdoor space. He adds the board does not take into consideration his “good faith efforts.” “Where’s the reciprocity?” he asks, and insists that the community board offers “no admission to the concessions and improvements” he’s made.
Ofshtein’s refusal to comply with the committee’s ultimatum, prompted a unanimous rejection of his liquor license application renewal.
“The committee folks kept saying that they had never, ever seen such a consistent reaction on the part of the community against a trouble-making bar,” an attendee at the February 26 committee meeting told BKLYNER in an email.
The committee “voted unanimously to deny renewal,” he added, “not that the SLA [State Liquor Authority] will heed that,” he said, noting that the SLA went ahead and renewed Woodland’s liquor license two years ago even though CB6 recommended against it.
At the subsequent CB6 General Board Meeting held on Wednesday, the full board also voted against Woodland’s license renewal. There was one abstention.
Ofshtein confirmed Friday morning that Woodland’s liquor license has been renewed for another two years.
Frustrated with the community board’s inability to do anything more, CB6 Chair, Sayar Lonial, pleaded with attendees of Wednesday’s meeting, saying, “I’d like to direct this to our state elected officials who happen to still be in the room…. This is a concern for our community. People in our neighborhood are not happy with this establishment.”
“We sent letters to the SLA and the SLA actually says, ‘We don’t care, we’re collecting money.’ and they rubber-stamp this,” Lonial continued. “Woodland has been an issue for a long time. Some of our elected officials have not listened to us on this. I ask you as representatives of our city and the state, please talk to the SLA about this establishment because we’ve done all we can. Our voice is not being heard.”
Yamazaki, who was appointed Woodland’s General Manager approximately ten months ago, told BKLYNER that during his time in the post he’s taken several steps to address the community’s concerns, such as hiring a new security team; hiring new DJs; and cancelling several promotions, including a popular party the venue used to host after brunch that lasted until 2am.
He adds that Woodland keeps a list of banned patrons, which currently consists of approximately 15-25 people. Yamazaki explains if neighbors have serious complaints about a particular patron and the business is able to identify them with surveillance footage, they will be added to this list and security will be instructed to deny them entry.
If locals want to speak to Yamazaki directly about concerns, he will attend the 78th Precinct’s NCO Sector C meetings which are scheduled every three months. Alternately, they can call Woodland at 718.398.7700 and ask for Pedro Yamazaki.
“We’ve done everything we can to control the situation and the crowds,” Ofshtein said. “No matter what you do, there will still be people who are not happy.”