Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 24 July 2013 09:35
Walk Street Tavern owner Jimmy Tubbs walked out of Village Hall on Tuesday, July 16 frustrated at having his restaurant compared to a shuttered pool hall.
Tubbs and village trustees got into a verbal tussle after Tubbs’ business was mentioned in the same breath with the controversial Empire Billiards, which recently closed. Tubbs feels his tavern is being unjustly saddled with baggage from the defunct pool hall.
Walk Street’s location put it in rough company. Residents repeatedly complained about noise at Empire as well as numerous quality of life issues from late-night patrons at the BP gas station, including public urination, fights and loitering. While Walk Street may have gotten caught in the fray, problems were raised by concerned residents.
On June 29, town officials went to investigate noise violations at Empire. Despite problems, no summons were issued because Empire closed the following day.
But that happened to be the night The New York Connection played at Walk Street, which has live music events, frequent fundraisers for local causes, a “handful” of times each year, according to Tubbs, and on July 12 he received a summons for noise. He argues that he was “set up.”
Village officials say they are merely being impartial. “We can’t go with a sound meter in front of Empire Billiards and not go with a sound meter in front of Walk Street Tavern,” said Mayor Robert Lofaro. “We have to apply the law equally amongst everybody.”
“I can’t just look at one place and not another,” echoed Public Works Superintendent Tom Gannon, who was the one investigating that night.
But that fairness doesn’t seem right to Tubbs, who says he has never received a summons before. When he took over Walk Street in 2008, he says, it had been riling the community for some time. Trustees say the board stipulated that noise levels comply with village code.
“We put you on notice in 2008 that if you exceeded the decibel reading, you were liable for a summons,” said Trustee Lawrence Montreuil.
Tubbs made efforts to mitigate town and resident concerns, including meeting with the board in 2010 to discuss outdoor music at the bar.
“I’m very offended,” Tubbs said. “We haven’t had an issue there in over five years. We’ve never had any kind of summons and you just lumped me in with [Empire Billiards].”
The maximum noise level allowed by the village code is 55 decibels. That’s only slightly louder than conversation chatter, so that level is broken in New Hyde Park every day: by every truck that passes, every car horn that honks. But, village reps say, those sounds soon pass. What they consider in taking sound readings is how long the noise remains above 55 decibels.
Tubbs called the code “unreasonable” and made it known that he feels the noise level requirment needs to be changed.
“It’s an impossible guideline,” he said. “The noise level that is required, that is not required of the village when they do their concert, or any block party, is impossible for us to meet.”
Montreuil said the village concerts are “deemed in the public good.”
“People had a major problem with that area,” Lofaro said. “We were dealing with Empire, the BP Gas station and we had to deal with [Walk Street] as well.”
In the back-and-forth, Tubbs alleged that there hadn’t been a complaint in more than a year, and that Gannon could back him up.
Lofaro and Gannon disagreed.
“There have been complaints in the last 12 months,” Lofaro said. Gannon then added that he hadn’t heard of any issues recently, “but I don’t believe I said a year.”
Montreuil indicated verbal complaints have been made at board meetings. One Ingraham Lane resident regularly complains about the noise.
Tubbs demanded copies of complaints concerning Walk Street. He would have to file a Freedom of Information Act request to the village, according to village attorney Ben Truncale.
The bar owner questioned the validity of the complaint, arguing that it could be a rival bar owner. Village officials replied that New Hyde Park “does its homework.”
“We investigate,” said Lofaro. “We do not issue summones based on somebody’s complaint.”
While Lofaro commended Tubbs, who has held numerous fundraisers at the tavern for community groups, the New Hyde Park Little League, etc., he said no one is exempt from the code.
“Jimmy Tubbs is a great guy,” Lofaro said after the meeting. “Walk Street Tavern is one of our key business in the community. All of us are frequent patrons of the establishment, but we take an oath of office to uphold the village code.”