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Part or parcel: Property puzzle as eatery vies to serve booze near church

The Brooklyn Paper

It’s the separation of church — and real estate!

The restaurateur behind a sleek new Prospect Heights eatery says he is exempt from a law banning the sale of hard liquor less than 200 feet from a church because the house of worship across the street is also a pet store.

Alexander Hall says his cocktail-centric eatery Sunshine Co. can escape byzantine blue laws thanks to a loophole in the State Liquor Authority’s code that bars bars near a “building occupied exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or other place of worship.”

The key word, for Hall, is “exclusively.”

“We are not saying that church is not a church,” said Hall, who also owns Milk Bar on Vanderbilt Avenue. “We’re just saying that as per SLA’s rules, we’re entitled to get a liquor license because it’s not solely and wholly a place of worship.”

But for the folks at the Tabernacle Free Church, the operative term is “building.”

The church owns a corner property at Washington Avenue and Sterling Place, welcoming parishioners at 745 Washington Ave., and leasing a small contiguous storefront at 470 Sterling Pl. to Fanci Pooches and Purrs Spa Boutique Concierge Service.

Both addresses are a part of the same parcel according to the Department of Buildings, and both are classified and taxed as religious establishments, according to the city’s Department of Finance — but the church says the pet shop is an entirely different edifice.

“That’s a separate building,” said associate pastor German Cayetano, who acknowledges the matter will be decided by a power second only to god: the State Liquor Authority.

“We abide by the rules and regulations of the state — the only time we wouldn’t is whenever what the state requires is in contradiction to what god instructs,” he said.

The state will rule on the liquor license bid on Feb. 27.

The hearing comes after months of uncertainty for Hall, who opened with lunch-service in December in anticipation of his liquor license, and claims he barely managed to stay in business until Feb. 2, when the state granted him permission to serve beer and wine.

The restaurant now serves beer, wine, and cocktails made with low-proof spirits like sherry, framboise, and Cocchi Americano — but could really thrive, according to Hall, with the addition of hard liquor.

“The place is designed as a cocktail restaurant, so it’s a bit like having a coffee shop with no coffee,” said Hall, who believes opponents were so fixed on his bar program that they forgot he was primarily a restaurant.

“We almost feel like we’re trying to do something bad, but we’re just trying to open a business!” he said.

Community Board 8 did not support the restaurant’s request for a liquor license over the summer, but has said it will support the restaurant if the state determines the church’s real estate holdings do not disqualify it from selling booze.

It’s certainly not the first time that a restaurant has found trouble near a place of worship, though some booze pedlars went to great lengths to get around the 200-foot rule by moving their front doors further away.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. Follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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Reader Feedback

Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Jesus turned water into wine, not the other way around.

Bars and liquor stores are closed on Sunday morning, so the only place you can get wine is in church.
Feb. 26, 2013, 1:13 am
diehipster from Crushing Coltons says:
Seems like yuppie entitlement at its finest.

"WAAAAHHHHHHHH we want booze and kale omelets on every corner of our new 'naaaaaaaabe', Mommyyyyyyyyyyyy!"
Feb. 26, 2013, 8:23 am
Willy from Prospect Heights says:
NYS finally got rid of the rule of barring liquor stores from opening on Sundays a few years back. Time for this rule to go the way of the dodo. While the State is at it, they should allow wine in grocery stores.
Feb. 26, 2013, 3:24 pm
ty from pps says:
diehipster -- Is that really the best you can do? You could at least be creative if you're going to stick with your tired shtick.
Feb. 26, 2013, 7:01 pm
harry from bkl says:
Religion is still synonymous with teetotaling and alcoholophobia?
Feb. 26, 2013, 7:55 pm
BM from PLG says:
That and superstitious nonsense
Feb. 26, 2013, 8:27 pm
Ty from Not That Ty says:
A pet store? Are they blessing parakeets? You can't have it both ways; you're either a church or a commercial establishment. I read it in the good book, the municipal code.
Feb. 27, 2013, 6:18 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
An entire building dedicated to kissing the ass of an imaginary sky-daddy is terrible enough, the notion that they'd actually be able to influence real businesses is disgraceful.
Feb. 27, 2013, 10:22 am
Homey from Crooklyn says:
...and the angry atheist chimes in !
Feb. 27, 2013, 1:54 pm
Sugar free from da hood says:
Way to backdoor get around what you already know the rules are going in! Enititled indeed.....that church was there long before you decided there arent enough places for people to drink in brooklyn. Unfortunately, with your bad mojo, I hope your biz goes under!!
Feb. 27, 2013, 5:10 pm
Freddy from Brooklyn says:
Sugar free: which part of "occupied exclusively as" is unclear to you?
Feb. 28, 2013, 8:42 am
JAZ from Caleb's nightmare says:
However you may interpret the SLA code, does the area really need another place to drink hard liquor that badly? I mean this same guy already has another bar just a few blocks away.
Feb. 28, 2013, 12:33 pm

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