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Community votes no to Astoria’s Sweet Afton sidewalk café permit amid complaints

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After receiving complaints from local residents, Community Board 1 recommended on Tuesday that the city deny a sidewalk café application for Astoria gastropub Sweet Afton.

The bar, located at 30-09 34th St., seeks to add six tables and 12 chairs, including a wheelchair-accessible seat, outside of the establishment, according to manager Rob Mohally and architect Steve Wygoda. The bar also has a backyard that seats about 25 people, Mohally said.

The sidewalk café would be open until 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Friday through Saturday.

John Katsanos, head of the Consumer Affairs board, said he received 10 complaints through email about the bar from residents who live in the surrounding apartments. The complaints included excessive noise, cigarette smoke, trash that is not properly maintained and drunk patrons loitering outside late at night. Stamatiades asked the manager if he has personally received complaints and what he has done to address the problems.

“We’re on a first-name basis [with some of our neighbors],” Mohally responded. “They’re telling me that someone was being a little noisy last night so I’ll go and investigate further with the security guard and the people who are working. But officially, I’ve never received a complaint.”

Mohally added that the bar hires a security guard to control noisy patrons.

Eugene Kuljanic, president of the 25 apartment units at 30-11 34th St., said during the public comment period that he receives many complaints from neighbors about excessive noise. He added that the building’s super wakes up at 5 a.m. on weekends to clean up the garbage left by bar patrons, including vomit.

“I wish I could say good things about this place,” Kuljanic said. “I’m constantly having phone calls from my tenants that they cannot sleep all night long.”

Kuljanic was also told by residents that the security guards at the front of the bar are “motionless at the front of the store” and that they “do nothing.”

“The worst thing is also the rubbish, instead of being collected in the front of the restaurant, is shoveled to the sidewalk and mixed with the rubbish of the building,” he added. “When [the] super approached the owner he just laughed and shrugged and moved on.”

Board member Judy Trilivias lives adjacent to the bar and her porch is right next to the bar’s backyard. Trilivias said the noise is not bothersome.

“My porch is next to his. Sometimes there’s noise,” Trilivias said. “It’s not like they have me up at night. It’s not like I’m one of the neighbors sending emails.”

A resident of 30-11 34th St., who asked not to be named, said though he enjoys the bar and frequents it often, he and his neighbors are concerned about the quality-of-life issue that might be raised by the outdoor seating area.

“My concern and the concern of the neighbors I’ve spoken with is if we have outdoor seating on a Friday night people are out late until 2, 3, 4 a.m. until the bar closes and then the next morning you have people coming in for brunch,” he said. “You’re staying up too late because of the noise of the late night and then you’re up early again because of the brunch.”

In the end, the board voted 23-15 in favor of denying the application; the Department of Consumer Affairs handles sidewalk cafe licenses and will have final say on the matter.

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