BY DANIEL OFFNER
A liquor license application for Racks Café Billiards, at 19-26 Steinway St. in Astoria, made its way back into the spotlight as members of Community Board 1 squabbled over whether to recommend its application to the State Liquor Authority.
The controversial application was first submitted in 2013, when CB1’s Consumer Affairs committee recommended its approval as a “bikini bar.” CB 1 eventually rejected the application by two votes, concerned the establishment would be used for adult entertainment.
When the application was resubmitted, last year, Racks’ representatives came before CB 1, arguing that they would bring lights, cameras and guards into the otherwise desolate street and noted that the owner has no outstanding violations with the Department of Buildings for a billiard hall he operated there for a decade. Yet, despite their plea, CB 1 would again deny the application.
One critical reason for the board’s decision was the establishment’s proximity to Woodtree Playground, just a ten-minute walk from IS 141.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) told the Queens Tribune last year, that places such as Racks aren’t in character with the family-friendly make-up of the neighborhood.
“Astoria does not need scantily-clad women performing lap and pole dances a stone’s throw away from a playground, middle school and our neighbor’s homes,” she said.
So, on Tuesday, when the application arose for a third time, members of CB 1 were quick to rally against it.
John Katsanos, a board member, said after the applicant refused to sign an agreement last year, prohibiting nudity at the establishment, he was concerned the latest recommendation was too loose, fearing it could give the owners an opportunity to change their method of operation in the future.
“I’m making a statement,” Katsanos said. “I highly suggest we do not approve the application.”
Still, others argued it would not be fair for the board to deny the application after previously recommending a liquor license for another nightclub nearby.
In a 22 to 9 decision, CB 1 voted in favor of the application with the caveat that Racks will “at no time whatsoever be used for topless or adult entertainment.”
“The bill I authored in 2013 to institute greater transparency in the liquor license application process ensured that the Community Board finally had the information necessary to properly scrutinize this application,” Simotas said. “I will work to hold the applicant to their promise to our community that they will not operate an adult entertainment establishment.”
Reach Daniel Offner at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, email@example.com, or @DanielOffner.