By a narrow margin of 19 to 14, Community Board 9 members voted down on Tuesday a request to extend the hours of operation for a South Richmond Hill nightclub.
Ravi Ramoutar, owner and operator of Zen Hibachi Lounge, located at 117-15 101 Ave., requested the change in the nightspot’s hours from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m., citing financial difficulty and the desire to increase revenue.
“We can’t cover our costs and we have outstanding bills,” he said. “It’s a huge place with a lot of overhead.”
The two-story establishment first opened nearly a year and a half ago. The second floor features a full restaurant with a 74-person capacity. The first floor lounge features bottle service, a DJ, valet parking and hookah with a total maximum capacity of 250 people.
Under the current agreement, Zen Hibachi Lounge is required to stop serving alcohol by 1 a.m. The State Liquor Authority (SLA) also imposed an additional unique stipulation requiring the restaurant to close its doors by 1:30 a.m. each night.
Maharani Singh, co-chair of the board’s Public Safety and Consumer Affairs Committee, cited the SLA stipulations, as well as concerns over the establishment’s proximity to residential areas, as the basis for the committee’s opposition.
Attorney Noreen Healy of Manhattan-based law firm Phillips Nizer represented Ramoutar and his staff at the meeting. She advocated for the extension of hours, and even suggested a 2 a.m. closing time as a potential compromise.
“We want to ask the Liquor Authority for a 4 a.m. closing time, but we wanted the Community Board’s support before we went to them,” Healy explained. “We are also willing to take 2 a.m., if you would give it to us. If we prove to be a quiet, peaceful operator, we’ll come back in another six months to year and ask for more.”
Healy disagreed with Singh’s assessment regarding the lounge’s residential locale. “The street that it sits on is not residential,” she said. “It is next to an office building and sits across the street from a post office with a parking lot, as well as a car lot and a mechanic’s garage.”
Some Community Board 9 members spoke out in favor of the establishment and supported their request to stay open longer. Public Safety Committee member Richard David urged the board to re-examine their long-standing policy of a 1 a.m. closing time for local restaurants.
David advocated on behalf of the eatery not only as a community board member, but as a patron as well. “It’s actually a beautiful place,” he added. “I’ve been there myself. It’s not a bad addition to the community. I think the board should really consider voting this application through and allow this business to thrive in our community.”
Other board members, however, were vocal in their opposition.
“It’s sending the wrong message,” Kevin O’Leary said. “We have to have uniformity here.”
“Nothing very good happens at 3 o’clock in the morning,” Dr. Stephen Sofer added.