New York Night Clubs Pressured to Close Earlier

New York is known as the city that never sleeps. That might sound exciting, but if you live next to a night club that closes at 4 a.m., it can also be exhausting. Now some community leaders are pressuring night clubs to close earlier. But night club owners say the trend could cost them — and the city — serious money.

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Some people in the city that never sleeps say they really don't sleep. That's especially true for people who live next to one of New York City's nightclubs. Many do not close until 4:00 o'clock in the morning. Brad Linder reports that some sleep deprived neighbors want the bars to close earlier.

BRAD LINDER: Two in the morning is when the night starts for brothers Jon and Stefan Turcula(ph). Jon's an architecture student, and Stefan is a clinical cancer researcher, and they both work very late.

I caught up with them outside a nightclub in New York's meat packing district.

It's like 2:30 right now. What do you think the city would be like if bars closed at 2:00 instead of 4:00?

Mr. TURCULA: At 2:00? It would not be New York.

Mr. TURCULA: No.

Mr. TURCULA: It'd be every other city.

Mr. TURCULA: It'd be like going home to Minnesota.

Mr. TURCULA: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Mr. TURCULA: It'd be the same exact thing as every other city in the state.

LINDER: But throughout New York, community members who are tired of dealing with the noise of all-night clubs are asking bars to close earlier. Zella Jones(ph) lives on Bleaker Street in the trendy NoHo neighborhood. As we walk down her block, she highlights the reasons she has a hard time getting a good night's sleep.

Ms. ZELLA JONES: From this corner at Bleaker and Bauer, there are 27 liquor licensed establishments within 500 feet.

LINDER: And many of those bars, clubs and restaurants are open well past 2:00 a.m. On a Saturday night, Jones says people spill out onto the streets, where they have arguments, kick around trash, and make a general ruckus.

Ms. JONES: And you're compelled to see if there's something wrong, even if there isn't anything wrong. That means you're getting up off your pillow. You're going to your window. You're going raising your window. You've gotten yourself up at 2:00 in the morning when you have to be up at 5:00 to go off somewhere else, maybe two or three times a night.

LINDER: Jones is a member of the community board that represents NoHo, and she's been negotiating agreements with new liquor license applicants. Under New York state law, city bars are allowed to serve alcohol until 4:00 a.m. But in order to get a license, they often have to appease neighborhood community boards, whose recommendations are carrying an increasing amount of weight with the state liquor authority.

The community boards have wielded so much influence over the past few years, that now less than 10 percent of liquor license applicants in Jones's neighborhood even ask to stay open past 2:00.

To some people, that makes the city feel less like New York.

Mr. ROBERT BOOKMAN (Attorney): There are plenty of places in the city and the state where you can go live at night where there's a lot of peace and quiet. Most of Manhattan is not one of those places.

LINDER: Robert Bookman is attorney for the New York Nightlife Association. He says the late night economy is part of what makes New York City tick. A few years ago, the association commissioned a study which found that bars and clubs make 58 percent of their money between 1:00 and 4:00 in the morning.

As for balancing the needs of residents and businesses, Bookman says many New Yorker are moving into areas that used to be known for their nightclubs and then complaining about the noise.

Mr. BOOKMAN: You can't have all of the advantages of living in Manhattan -being 10 minutes from work, being five minutes from 1,000 restaurants, being 15 minutes from, you know, the best theater in the world and entertainment in the world - and not have any negative consequences.

LINDER: But Zella Jones has lived in her apartment for 35 years, responds that nobody should have to put up with car alarms, fist fights, and domestic disputes outside their window at 4:00 in the morning.

Ms. JONES: I accept that I'm not going to hear birds tweeting in the morning. I accept that I'm not going to see stars twinkling over my head at night because I'm in New York City. But there's a point where it really does cross the line.

LINDER: Right now, few of the city's 10,000 bars and clubs close their doors at 2:00 a.m. But if community boards like Jones's continue to negotiate 2:00 a.m. closings, the city that never sleeps could start to look a little more like Minnesota.

For NPR News, I'm Brad Linder in New York.

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