Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gidewons' 'SPI Club' wins nod from liquor board

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 3:22 PM

click to enlarge Michael Gidewon
  • Michael Gidewon

After four hours of public comment from the largest crowd seen before the city's License Review Board in several years — and another half-hour of see-saw deliberation by the five board members — Michael Gidewon's proposed lounge and nightclub now heads to Mayor Shirley Franklin with a recommendation for approval.

"I'm really torn on this," announced LRB member Will Lobb at the start of the board's final discussion, seemingly echoing his colleague's feelings. "I support the idea of the club … but this looks like it's going to change the nature of the neighborhood."

In the end, Lobb was one of two votes against the clubs; Peggy Harper also voted to deny after first suggesting the board send the matter to the mayor with no recommendation.

Voting with the 3-2 majority, member Frank McComb seemed to sum up that side's thinking: "Although I'm not sure it's good for the neighborhood, I see no legal grounds for denial."

Not a raving endorsement, but good enough to allow the clubs to clear the most daunting hurdle that lay between them and limos full of free-spending VIPs. While Franklin has sometimes ignored the LRB's advice, those episodes are rare and usually involve club locations or owners with a history of license violations.

In the Gidewons' case, they were coming before the board with a long record of club ownership — Vision, Compound and the second incarnation of the Velvet Room — that was unblemished by citations or even late fee payments. But it was clear from the more than two hours of opponents' anecdotes that they'd also amassed a sizable amount of ill will among Midtown residents, who complained of enduring years of snarled traffic, noise, litter and street crime when Vision was in operation.

The most potent argument against the clubs seemed to be that they were unsuited to the ambitious vision of the "Midtown Mile," graced by soaring office and condo towers, busy sidewalks and street-level retail, that had been been adopted by the city and Midtown leaders.

Both Lobb and Harper cited the "greater good of the community" in voting to deny, even though the board's legal counsel explained that that factor should only be considered in cases where a violation has occurred.

Franklin has 60 days to make her decision. Gidewon says he plans to open the clubs by Christmas.

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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