It’s strange to think every time someone sips on a cocktail or a beer in this corner of the Bronx, that drink was approved by Community Board 8.
Well in a sense, anyway.
That’s because part of the responsibility for granting and renewing restaurant liquor licenses falls on CB8 and all other community boards around the city. Each month, CB8’s public safety committee meets to review liquor licenses up for renewal, typically giving them a thumb’s up. Or in some cases, like Tililá Casa Publica y Cocina, it almost was a thumb’s down.
That’s because Tililá — a Dominican restaurant at 3648 Bailey Ave. — found itself in some hot water with CB8 over a series of noise complaints. Although the full board did eventually approve Tililá’s license at last week’s full board meeting, the restaurant was indeed in real danger of losing a primary revenue source.
“We’ll see what happens, we’re hoping that this doesn’t burn us,” said Ed Green, the public safety committee chair, who originally abstained from voting for the renewal. “But we’re going to continue to monitor them. And for now, the board approves of the renewal of their license.”
Like all of CB8’s other decisions, this approval is only advisory. But it is sent to the state liquor authority, and is taken into consideration when that agency issues its final rulings.
Green’s committee was ready to send a “no” vote to the state just a couple of weeks earlier, with just one person voting for renewal, while two voted against and two abstained.
Green, one of the two abstentions, said the committee ultimately arrived at this decision after the 50th Precinct reported a number of 311 complaints about noise at Tililá over the past year. Additionally, some complained about the regular nightly presence of double-parked cars in front of the restaurant, generally stretching down to West 238th Street.
“I like to support our local businesses, but establishments that are seeking SLA licenses have a responsibility to operate in a respectful way that doesn’t disturb the neighborhood,” Green said. “So, the evidence we’ve obtained leads us to believe that they’re a chronic nuisance to the residents.”
Green obtained 311 data from the 5-0 — which he shared with The Riverdale Press — that listed 33 complaints stretching over a 15-month period, beginning back even before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s a significant number of complaints, Green said — especially because people disturbed by noise often don’t call 311 in the first place. Additionally, the public safety committee chair concluded it couldn’t just be one or two people making these calls, as they came from a variety of sources including landlines, cell phones and internet numbers.
But the committee’s decision wasn’t just based on 311 calls. Barbara Joyner Heart, who lives near Tililá on West 238th, told the committee that many times, the ruckus would spill out from the bar and into the street.
“My concerns are about Tililá bar and the loud volume that they play loud music,” Heart said. “They even have open singing on the sidewalk. It’s really disturbing to our community because they sing very loud. They scream right before closing time. I mean they’re screaming like they’re at Yankee Stadium.”
Tililá keeping its liquor license looked grim. That is, until the full board had a chance to meet and make their own call. By then, Green said he learned there hadn’t been any new complaints against the bar since May — when restaurants were allowed to reopen indoor dining at 70 percent. And although there were many 311 complaints, Tililá never received any official violations over this time period.
It’s not clear how much power the board would’ve had even if they had voted to deny the license renewal. A spokesman for the state liquor authority told The Press that while community boards’ decisions on liquor license applications hold weight, a negative ruling on a license renewal wouldn’t be taken as seriously unless there were violations to support it.
But the board only gave its approval on the condition Tililá register with Mend NYC — a city program that mediates conflicts between establishments and their neighborhoods. Jose Tilia, the bar’s owner, said he was amenable to following through and cooperating with the community board going forward.
“I wanted to work with the NYPD 50th Precinct, and I wanted to work with anybody from this community,” Tilia said. “And I wanted to help the city — help the community — with the issues that we had in the past.”
However, Tilia denied his restaurant played loud music outside, or that it was responsible for the double-parked cars.
“We are a family restaurant business,” he said. “This is not loud. This is not a discotheque.”
Tililá has joined BAMBA — the Bailey Avenue Merchants and Business Alliance — a program run by the Kingsbridge Riverdale Van Cortlandt Development Corp., trying to build a business community in some of the underserved commercial pockets near Broadway. It’s that association that convinced Nick Fazio, another member of the public safety committee, to support Tililá’s efforts to keep its license.
“That particular corridor has faced some challenges,” Fazio said. “It’s seen a little bit of a revitalization, which many of the neighbors conveyed to me that they were very happy about. Tililá is a big part of it.”
Fazio believes the noise problems were a circumstance of the pandemic, because the business had to rely on outdoor dining and find creative ways to engage the community. But now that the pandemic is winding down and the business is aware of the neighborhood complaints, he hopes there won’t be any more issues.
“They expressed the desire to work with the community, and to solve this issue amicably on numerous occasions,” Fazio said. “So, I hope that they follow through.”