The Street Life Committee strikes again. You can count on Community Board 8 to not let the law or the facts get in the way of their outrage. A particularly butthurt Community Board Chair Russell Squire lead a successful retaliation campaign against the popular national burger chain Shake Shack Tuesday night, upset that the company would not appear before the board to ‘kiss the ring’ for a simple paperwork change for its license to serve beer.
“The reason that they gave for not coming is, they said, we’re a large chain, we can’t be bothered essentially to come to every Community Board meeting that has a Shake Shack in it, to discuss this,” Mr. Squire told the Street Life Committee when Shake Shack’s application came up on the meeting agenda.
“So the idea that we would make an exception for Shake Shack because they’re large, I think is completely wrong and wrong of them to expect us to do that, and wrong of them to have said that in the way that they did,” Squire added, miffed by the tone of the Shake Shack’s emails.
As it turns out, Shake Shack’s corporate change is only a switch involving one of five partners in the restaurant, which is located at 154 East 86th Street, between Third and Lexington Avenues.
Loraine Brown, who goes by Mrs. Brown and nearly brought a small business owner to tears earlier in the night, telling her she would be required to install a disabled-accessible bathroom in her 200 square foot restaurant which isn’t required by law to have any bathroom available to any customers— chimed in to support the retaliation against Shake Shack.
“I certainly support Chair Squire’s motion,” Mrs. Brown began, “I think it’s important that we send messages to corporations large or small that they must respect the community board and our work and for them to be dismissive in this regard, that really creates a concern to me.”
“I think that our not approving the application should send a message loud and clear,” Mrs. Brown added, moments before the Street Life Committee would unanimously disapprove Shake Shack’s request.
The committee also agreed to also attach the correspondence with the burger chain to their resolution, which will be sent to the New York State Liquor Authority.
A member of the public, Andrew Fine, who serves as Vice President of the East 86th Street Association, was called on to speak after the vote— rather than taking public comment on the Shake Shack as is normally the procedure.
“For whatever reason, I don’t know why I wasn’t called on on the Shake Shack application but it seems like a technicality— changing the five owners to four owners plus the new owner,” Mr. Fine told the committee, defending the restaurant.
“I just want to say that Shake Shack in general on East 86th Street has been a terrific neighbor. They they clean their tree pit. They water their tree pit. They maintain the sidewalk,” Fine added.
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That’s when Street Life Committee Chair Abraham Salcedo spoke up.
“I think that the main emphasis is in the law that all applicants are supposed to file and come before the Community Board, so that is the main objection. It’s not a ‘hurt feelings’ issue,” Mr. Salcedo said, but that’s exactly the kind of issue it sounded like to an objective observer.
“It is actually the fact that they are not complying with the law and circumventing the process which is why our denial, which may or may not be symbolic the [State Liquor Authority], is being performed in that way. So thank you.”
Former Community Board member Barry Schneider— whose wife Judy Schneider still serves on the board— spoke as well, as a member of the public.
“We are a city agency coded by the charter. I’m concerned that we are beginning to walk away from democracy, by not appearing at a hearing that you received a summons or a petition for,” Schneider said indignantly.
“We are a tiny agency but the whole city the whole country is drifting in the wrong direction. You do not avoid going to a governmental agency because you’re too big and I reject their argument,” he added.
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Upper East Site reached out to both Shake Shack and the New York State Liquor Authority and you guessed it— as usual, Community Board 8 has no idea what it is talking about.
“I’ve confirmed with the [State Liquor authority] that the only [Community Board] involvement to implement officer changes is to simple notify the [Community Board] of the change and to show documentation of said notice with the application,” a Shake Shack representative told Upper East Site.
“Beyond that the [Community Board] doesn’t have bearing on implementing this type of change,” they said, added that “disrespect was never [Shake Shack’s] intention.”
The New York State Liquor Authority also confirms to Upper East Site that Shake Shack only needs to notify the Community Board— not appear in person or virtually— to make the corporate change, though an appearance is encouraged.
In fact, a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document about community boards on the State Liquor Authority’s website even details as much.
“A corporate licensee may have a change of officers, directors and stockholders without going through the entire application process,” the document states.
“In such a case the licensee has to submit information regarding the new persons coming into the corporation and the financing involved.”
Upper East Site asked to review the correspondence between Community Board 8 and Shake Shack, but did not receive the emails by time of publication.
The resolution against Shake Shack heads to the full board for approval on November 19th.
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