After Lively Debate, Board Votes No on Gay Bar Near School

The lone 8-year-old in the room did not understand what all the fuss was about.

“Boxers, Boxers, Boxers, why can’t they stop saying the same thing?” said the girl, midway through a packed debate at Community Board 4 in Hell’s Kitchen on Wednesday night.

Boxers is the name of a gay sports bar in Chelsea that is seeking to open a second location at 766 10th Avenue near 52nd Street and just down the block from Public School 111. And Wednesday night, dozens of residents said the bar posed a threat to the health and moral well-being of their children.

And after three hours of heated discussion, the community board voted to recommend that Boxers not be granted a liquor license. The matter now goes to the State Liquor Authority, which will make the final decision.

“The kids don’t need exposure to another alcohol establishment,” the school’s principal, Irma Medina, said at the meeting, held in a community room at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. She said the students, who are often at after-school activities until 6 p.m., would have a direct view of the bar and would be harmed by smoke blowing onto the schoolyard.

“They should change the name of the bar to Schoolyard,” said a resident, James Wallace, echoing a line heard throughout the night.

Bars are not allowed to open within 200 feet of a school or church, but both the bar’s lawyer and a community board committee leader said the two-story establishment would be just outside the limit.

Some residents complained that Boxers would make an inappropriately “Hooter-esque” neighbor for the school, with its promotional campaigns that include “Show us your boxers.”

The bar’s supporters, including men wearing red “Boxers” ball caps, praised the Chelsea location for its sponsorship of gay and lesbian sports groups like Frontrunners New York and Out Cycling. David Schneider, a gay rights advocate, called Boxers a “class joint” that “gives back to the community more than many bars do.”

Others said the bar’s presence on the block would actually enhance safety, by bringing people to an often empty street.

Bishop James A. Johnson, 71, from the Metropolitan Spiritual Churches of Christ, called the Chelsea Boxers a “safe environment” where he goes with his aging friends. “A lot of us go there because we don’t like senior centers,” Mr. Johnson said. “And you can’t tell if we’re gay or straight by looking at us!”

The community board’s letter to the liquor authority will include stipulations that the board would support the bar if it shortened its hours so that it was not open when children were at the school, erected a wall on the rooftop patio to prevent visibility, and increased security. Boxers has already submitted plans to open a taco shop without a liquor license in the part of the building closest to the school in order to place the bar itself at the required distance.

After the meeting, Boxers’ co-owners, Bob Fluet and Robert Hynds, said that they appreciated the process that went into discussing the bar.

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