One Wednesday in February at Veronica’s, the boss lined up shot glasses on the bar, opened a bottle of tequila and passed it down the line to her 14 employees.
The news was not going to be good. Because of mounting health department fines and a pending lawsuit from neighbors, the owners of Veronica People’s Club, a gay bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, told the staff that the bar would stop serving alcohol after 8 p.m.
A bar that stops serving at 8 is not a bar with a future. On St. Patrick’s Day, the other shoe dropped, and Veronica’s, which had flourished – sometimes too noisily for its neighbors’ liking — since opening in 2010, shut its doors after one last tearful party.
It has been a rough spell for gay bars in North Brooklyn: Blackout, a block down Greenpoint Avenue from Veronica’s, closed in November. And last month, the local community board voted to ask the state not to renew the license of the area’s most popular gay bar, Metropolitan in Williamsburg, after complaints that it regularly kept its outdoor patio open later than the law allowed. (The vote is unlikely to lead to any action because Metropolitan has had a relatively clean record, the state liquor authority said.)
While the reasons for the bars’ problems vary, and while many bars in the city, gay and straight alike, draw complaints from neighbors, some owners and patrons say they think anti-gay sentiments are a factor in neighborhoods with a conservative core of longtime residents.
Kelly Gorman, a promoter who hosted a weekly party at Blackout and started a Friday night party, Kielbasa, at Veronica’s, said many longtime Greenpointers “don’t necessarily want us there” and do not want their neighborhood to change, “especially when it comes to gay events.”
Though Blackout closed over an internal dispute, Louis Terline, who was one of the owners, said he sometimes felt harassed by his neighbors.
“All it takes is one crazy person to call 20 times a night until the police just don’t want to be bothered anymore,” Mr. Terline said.
A woman who would give her name only as Yvette and for more than 10 years has managed a deli on Franklin Street, on the block where Veronica’s is located, said, “I haven’t seen, personally, any real discrimination against gay people.” She said the neighborhood had welcomed a highly visible gay influx in recent years. “Of course,” she added, “people aren’t going to do it in public and let people know how they really feel.”
In Veronica’s case, the owners of the building next door charged in a lawsuit filed in December that “unreasonably loud music and noises of all sorts are emitted” from the bar at all hours and that the music sent vibrations through their apartment, causing them “to become nervous, anxious and agitated.”
The neighbors, Lena and Peter Jou, who bought their building 10 years ago, seek millions of dollars in damages and compensation for loss of property value.
None of the parties directly involved with the case would comment, citing the pending litigation. But Chris Barry, 29, who had been a bartender at Veronica’s, said the bar’s closing was a result of accumulating health department fines, which he said had doubled since the dispute with the neighbors began last year.
At its last graded inspection, in November, Veronica’s received a C and was cited for flies, having cold food stored at high temperatures, and not taking adequate steps against vermin. An inspection in January put the bar on track to receiving a B, with one “critical” sanitary violation for improperly using or storing a food utensil. No information was immediately available on fines levied against the bar.
Veronica’s, which opened in July 2010, regularly drew crowds to its Friday night dance parties and Monday evening viewings of the reality television show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
But Saturday’s crowd might have been the biggest ever. In the waning afternoon light, with most of the booze in the house consumed, one of the owners, Heather Millstone, climbed atop the bar to give a speech.
“Greenpoint’s a very special place,” she said through tears. “Thank you, guys.”
The crowd whooped and cheered once more.