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Peace meal? Councilman’s proposed law could end War On Brunch

The Brooklyn Paper
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Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint) has drafted legislation that could end a 21-day conflict between the city and rebel restaurants — and save outdoor dining on Sunday mornings, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

Levin’s bill, which he submitted to city council on Monday, would change a 30-year-old city law that prohibits cafes from serving customers food and drink on sidewalk cafes before noon on Sundays, aligning city code with state laws that permit brunching as early as 8 am.

“The legislation is in the very early stages,” said Levin. “I am still listening to all the stakeholders, including the brunching community, the religious community, and the religious brunching community.”

The bill could defuse a conflict that erupted last month when Community Board 1 leaders warned city officials that several Northside cafes were violating the seldom-enforced Sunday morning outdoor brunch ban.

On April 18, the Department of Consumer Affairs agreed to “follow-up accordingly” with restaurant inspections in North Brooklyn, agency community relations director Ricky Wong wrote in a dispatch to Community Board 1 that was obtained by The Brooklyn Paper.

Four days later, city inspectors raided the Mediterranean bistro Lokal and issued a summons for allegedly setting up tables outdoors at 9:35 am — making the Lorimer Street restaurant the first casualty in the War on Brunch.

Consumer Affairs inspectors struck again on May 5, citing Five Leaves and the Meatball Shop on Bedford Avenue for the same offense.

Lokal and Five Leaves vowed to fight the tickets in separate court appearances next month.

“We’ve been serving Sunday before noon for five years and we never received any complaints,” said Lokal co-owner Serkan Uzel. “We’re paying our taxes, we’re trying to be nice to our neighbors, and we try to avoid every complaint.”

This month, the war turned as cold as a smoked salmon platter when several cafes north of McCarren Park hauled in their outdoor tables in retreat. But even though it was quiet on the front line, the eateries were working behind the scenes to mobilize support from hundreds of diners — and power players including Levin and Borough President Markowitz.

Meanwhile, Community Board 1 leaders expanded their front, imploring members of other civic groups to adopt an if-you-see-brunching-say-something policy and call 311 with any reports of scofflaw eateries.

Rebel restaurateurs and their allies said the war must end at a Community Board 1 on Tuesday.

“We’re overwhelmed from what we say is a witch hunt in our neighborhood,” said Five Leaves co-owner Jud Mongell. “It seems weird to be the only two restaurants to be victimized by this.”

Kathy Meachem, another owner of the popular Aussie-influenced eatery, said rescinding the law would bring fairness to Sunday morning outdoor dining.

“Either it should be enforced everywhere or they should change the law,” she said.

Community Board 1 public safety chairman Tom Burrows, who lead the charge against rule-breaking eateries, declined to comment.

News of Levin’s brunch bill comes just four days before Mother’s Day — arguably the single most important brunching day of the year.

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Reader Feedback

manhatposeur from manhatland says:
About time. Put Burrows in his place.
May 9, 2012, 9:21 am
norm from brooklyn heights says:
Makes no sense. Brunching at 8 am??? That's called breakfast.
May 9, 2012, 9:28 am
Interloper from Kent Ave says:
HA! I told you that you'd lose Burrows. Marty and Levin have our back and now your "War on Brunch" is a lost cause. So much for your neighborhood power play and you being a relevant member of CB1. Maybe you'll keep your mouth shut from now on.
May 9, 2012, 9:50 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I love this sentence so much:

“I am still listening to all the stakeholders, including the brunching community, the religious community, and the religious brunching community.”
May 9, 2012, 10:10 am
Crawford from North Side says:
How can we remove Tom Burrows from any position of authority at the Community Board? Who elected this idiot?
May 9, 2012, 10:11 am
BunnynSunny from Clinton Hill says:
That photo again? Please turn it down or give them a sitcom already.
May 9, 2012, 10:13 am
JC from Greenpoint says:
Using Norm's astute point as a foundation, I suggest a compromise in which the prohibition on outdoor brunch before noon on Sundays be left untouched while DCA initiates a pilot program in which breakfast can be served in sidewalk cafes at any time. If the concern is that people would be drinking mimosas while churchgoing families pass by, I'm sure beerios would be much less offensive.
May 9, 2012, 10:38 am
Frank from Furter says:
Its brunch when you get a bloody mary. Its breakfast with just coffee. State law allows drinking on Sunday am at 8 am!
Drinking Sunday blue laws went the way of the Dodo when they permitted Liquor stores to open on Sunday.

So what does the idea of not seeing people drinking mean when you go to a Saturday mass?

There is no reason for a compromise. Not that many people will be boozing at 8 am. That crowd doesn't get up to 10 am anyway.
May 9, 2012, 10:46 am
Frank from Furter says:
Its brunch when you get a bloody mary. Its breakfast with just coffee. State law allows drinking on Sunday am at 8 am!
Drinking Sunday blue laws went the way of the Dodo when they permitted Liquor stores to open on Sunday.

So what does the idea of not seeing people drinking mean when you go to a Saturday mass?

There is no reason for a compromise. Not that many people will be boozing at 8 am. That crowd doesn't get up to 10 am anyway.
May 9, 2012, 10:46 am
Juan from Gowanus says:
Glad to see common sense prevail. Tom Burrows must go.
May 9, 2012, 10:47 am
Voice of Truth from 11249 says:
Team Levin. Great job Councilman.

Burrows is an unelected bully who is trying to jam his brunch hatred down our throats by force and financial terrorism. He should be removed from CB1 and chased out of Greenpoint by a mob of pitchfork and torch wielding brunch enthusiasts.
May 9, 2012, 11:12 am
Teresa from Greenpoint says:
Ditto what Mike from Williamsburg said re “I am still listening to all the stakeholders, including the brunching community, the religious community, and the religious brunching community.”

HILARIOUS.

Thanks Steve, and thanks Brooklyn Paper for the peppy update.
May 9, 2012, 1:57 pm
Bay Ridger from Bay Ridge says:
Kudos to Greenpoint for electing a councilperson with a sense of humor. I like Vincent Gentile but not sure if he's big on yucking it up.

Hooray for BUNCH! Bellinis for all! Happy Mother's Day.
May 9, 2012, 1:59 pm
adamben from bedstuy says:
now let us have booze before noon on sunday (still illegal even if you can have brunch before noon outdoors).
May 9, 2012, 4:35 pm
Malembi from BK says:
Yeah hooray for "bunch" ass hole
May 10, 2012, 3:30 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
check sla site - no booze servedbefore noon on sunday
May 11, 2012, 11:24 pm

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