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Opening the Bar Part 1: The Drunk & Disorderly

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Monday September 19, 2016

It’s Monday morning in a rainy NYC and I’m icing my knee. It was an “eventful” weekend. Yes, there were many he-said-she-said political headlines and plenty of Week 2 NFL upsets, but there was also a particular bike crash that resulted in this:

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While I want nothing more than to sit here and write about my epic Iron Man training regimen (including those fancy clip-in shoes that occasionally cause professionals to tumble), I will stick to the unfortunate truth: I was drunk. And although it is nice to have all next-morning-regrets solely focused on self-inflicted wounds (thank god I’m past that petty-drunk-texting phase!), I can’t help but wonder if this is a sign that I should probably not be entering the alcoholic beverage industry.

Too bad alcohol gods, you’re two months too late; this gal is well on her way to opening L.C. Farmery, soon to be NYC’s latest and greatest craft beverage bar. To be clear, when I say “this gal” what I really mean is that my boyfriend is opening a new NY-produced craft beverage bar concept, for which I will be head of kitchen culture (responsible for tasting the wine we serve, frequently, from my throne in the kitchen). I guess I’m also responsible for structuring and sourcing an equity investment because I play investment banker by day (when sober).

My boyfriend Andrew, on the other hand, is a total restaurant guy. He ran a bunch of Smashburger restaurants in Westchester, Manhattan, and Long Island over the last few years. I used to think his job was pretty lame (once the initial excitement of unlimited free sweet potato fries was replaced with a closet full of stale-burger-infused clothes) but now that he’s a credible operator capable of running our bar, I’m super proud.

Opening a bar in New York City is not easy. In fact, it’s obnoxiously complicated… even for a wall street schmuck like me. Heck, I’d rather turn comment number 347 at 2am on my 152-page pitch deck than listen to the hours-long argument between the aspiring rooftop bar-owner and local resident regarding the appropriate hours of liquor-serving operation in front of the community board. Hang on, can we talk about the community board for a second here? I swear to god, it’s like these people think they live in the suburbs! Somebody please explain to me how one can object to a liquor license transfer (in other words, there is already an establishment in this location serving alcohol until 4am) for a new bar two blocks from Penn Station. I mean c’mon people; who lives by Penn Station and expects peace and quiet?!

Andrew and I went to the community board hearing last week, which is step 1 for a liquor license application. And, for the record, this is not for an approval, oh no, this is solely for a “recommendation” to the State Liquor Authority as to whether or not the community supports your endeavor (influx of drunken disorder on the block). The room was packed like a High School assembly, complete with the jocks (liquor license seekers), cheerleaders (their lawyers), and mathletes (opposing local residents). When I first walked in, I was particularly impressed with the community board member’s preparation – there were probably 8 snack varietals including Milano cookies, Halloween candy (a jumbo bag), homemade cookies (from a distance I think they were chocolate chip), and various chips, pretzels, and crackers… yum.

Given the array of junk food, my intuition led me to believe that these folks required such snacks as a sort of, self-bribe, for attending a community meeting from 6:00-8:30pm, because that’s where no New Yorker wants to be on a Wednesday. Nope, intuition fail, this was dinner, better yet, these folks knew that winter was coming. The meeting lasted 5 hours and Andrew and I were number 14 of 15 total applicants; it was the longest Wednesday of my life! In the end, what I learned on that fateful Wednesday from the September Community Board Four meeting was two-fold: 1) no one in New York City is rationale, and everyone still thinks they can fight for quiet streets with orderly conduct, and 2) when applying for a liquor license, always bring a cell phone charger and chocolate.

Until next time!
Grace