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Battle brewing over brunch law in Brooklyn

May 22, 2012 4:56:03 AM PDT
There is a brunch battle underway in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where sidewalk cafes have been getting hit with summonses for setting up tables too early on Sundays.

The law prohibiting tables on the sidewalk before noon on Sundays has been in place city-wide since the 1970s, but it has rarely been enforced. In fact, cafe owners didn't even know they were breaking the law until Community Board 1 asked the city to crack down.

On any given Sunday, Greenpoint restaurants are bustling with the brunch crowd. Several weeks ago, hot spots like Five Leaves and Lokal were surprised to receive summonses saying that they were breaking the law by having tables out before noon. Ever since then, they have limited their brunch.

"Of course it is hurting our business, because we have 14 tables outside and we can't use them," Lokal manager Serkan Uzel said. "Brunch is very important, especially for this restaurant. It's a very important time."

The community board spearheaded the crackdown, citing complaints from churchgoers about crowded sidewalks. But New York City Councilman Steve Levin says he is unaware of any issues.

"I have reached out to a number of religious leaders, and they told me, basically, we want people to eat when they're hungry," he said.

In fact, pushing the time back to noon for brunch may have resulted in more sidewalk congestion.

"I think there is actually more congestion now, with waiting outside," resident Katherine Kerrick said. "And there's more people standing right there, and I think it's more difficult for people to get in, as opposed to if people are sitting and decide to give some space."

Levin is currently working with the Department of Consumer Affairs to update the law, and craft legislation to allow sidewalk cafes to open before noon.

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