If Not the Royal Palms, Then What?


There’s a been a growing buzz about neighborhood opposition to The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club over the past few weeks. We wrote about the Community Board 6 liquor license committee meeting during which Royal Palms owners Jonanthan Schnapp and Ashley Albert withdrew their application after it became clear that the board was not going to recommend their license. The Wall Street Journal wrote about the club and the uneasy gentrification of Gowanus.  And, Gothamist posted a piece suggesting that residents should lay down their petitions and anti-bar posted, pleading, “Neighborhood, don’t ruin this… we’ve waited so long.”

Here’s the thing, though: this is not an all or nothing fight. As Albert rightly points out in the Wall Street Journal, something is going to go in that space. If not The Royal Palms, then what?

The disputed stretch of Union Street is zoned M-1, which means the city allows light manufacturing, warehouses, retail and hotels in these swaths. There’s a casket manufacturer on the street currently, as well as a woodworking shop. If Schnapp and Albert are forced to give up the Royal Palms in its current location, the landlord isn’t going to settle for a business that can pay less rent; rather, a business with deeper pockets, for the legal fees it will take to barrel through the permit process–think hotel chain, big box retailer–will likely move in.

The Royal Palms folks have met with neighborhood representatives four times now. They’ve recalculated their business plan to accommodate a smaller maximum occupancy, drawn up soundproofing plans and agreed to delay the opening of the roof deck for six month to prove that they will be noise control mavens, and to then return to the community board for approval for a separate permit for a deck bar.

What more could you ask for from potential neighbors?

Withdrawing their application at the CB6 meeting was a further sign of good faith. While having community board approval is a feather in the cap of an application for a liquor license, ultimately, the State Liquor Authority is the body that grants licenses, not community boards. Being zoned M-1 and, as is the case for The Royal Palms, a significant distance from any schools, houses of worship or other places that sell alcohol, makes it very likely that the SLA will grant the license. The state after all, collects taxes on liquor sales. Schnapp and Albert know this–they withdrew the application because don’t just want to muscle through, they want to be a real part of the neighborhood, not a divisive force.

Schnapp has worked with us here at BB on a number of events–he has DJ’d parties we’ve thrown at The Bell House and spoke at our storytelling night at Dekalb Market a few months ago. Before the CB6 meeting I called him up to ask him about the opposition and he said, “You know, I really like the neighborhood, I like that they’re passionate about where they live. I just really believe we can address their concerns.” He went on to tell me that he wanted everyone to know that they would NOT be like Brooklyn Bowl, would not be shiny new music venue-artisan fried chicken joint-bowling alley, hipster palace.

And that may be his mistake–defining his club against a bowling alley.

There may be some bowling alleys in dry counties the South or Utah that don’t serve beer, but I’ve never been to one of them. But you don’t associate them with binge drinking, vomit and bad behavior. Sure, Brooklyn Bowl is the epitome of only-in-Williamsburg, Brooklyn as a parody of itself culture. But go to Melody Lanes in Sunset Park or 34th Avenue Lanes in Jackson Heights, both of which are open until 3am, or 4am on the weekends; both of which serve cheap pitchers of beer, and you’ll find bowlers across a wide New York spectrum. They’re true third spaces–not home, not work–a purely social spot. When their Gowanus neighbors look at the Royal Palms all they see is BAR BAR BAR and all they think is drunk twentysomethings, yelling outside their windows and puking on their doorsteps. Instead, they should think: bowling alley, but with biscuits and tangs, not balls and pins.

5 Responses

  1. BKLYN contessa -

    Royal Palms should be viewed by the community as a social club … and like with nearly every country club, a bar to compliment the social nature of the sport/activity. If neighbors are so concerned for their property values {a rather new worry for those who decided to buy in Gowanus decades ago} I would imagine nothing would destroy the gains they have made in property values despite the superfund site more than a big Walmart or Best Western. Also it needs to be considered that the Royal Palms would create REAL jobs within the community and revenues would stay more local as the owners are Brooklynites … not some random corporation from middle America.

  2. Gowanus Neighbor -

    Schnapp and Albert are being very naive about how they see their shuffleboard club. They have consistently underestimated the number of people frequenting their bar/club when meeting with neighbors of their proposed club. If the club takes off as they predict, it will be a HUGE venue with loud drinking and music, not to mention food trucks every night. And if they develop the roof as they have stated, we’re looking at even more noise and disturbances. No amount of roof soundproofing will abate the noise. It doesn’t take a sound expert or genius to know that sound travels and when a bar is placed on a roof, everyone will hear it!

    The fact remains that an extremely huge venue as they are attempting to open, directly across the street from residential buildings, is problematic. The light manufacturing in the area doesn’t disturb people’s sleep, nor do they bring in the numbers of people Schnapp and Albert are hoping for; with all the issues and problems … drunken patrons at all hours of the night, litter, smokers hanging outside the venue as well as on the benches across the street in front of the homes, increased traffic (read traffic jams) with taxis and livery cars dropping off and picking up patrons. All you need to do is check out any new and successful club that has opened in just such an area thru out the city and you will see the problems (increased traffic and otherwise) that have come with opening such a venue … The Jane Hotel on Jane and West St, the club on W. 26th St off 6th Ave. Many more examples exist!

    You are also being naive when you state that the proposed club will be a “bowling alley, but with biscuits and tangs, not balls and pins.” I’m sorry, but this proposed club will be a BAR w/ shuffleboard.

  3. Anonymous -

    “bowling alley with biscuits and tangs” sounds nice. In my mind, that’s a bit overshadowed by the sound of “500 drunk people in front of my home at 2 in the morning”. While a big box store or chain hotel would lack color, I don’t worry about my ability to sleep.

  4. Bob H -

    As I see it….. A shuffle board club is a big plus to the community. I live in Florida and we have quite a few shuffle board courts and clubs. I have not seen any of these clubs cause any kind of disturbance to the communities that they are in. Any social club should be welcomed in any community.

  5. BKLYN contessa -

    … the community most certainly has cause for concern … Ashley & Jonathan are void of common decency or professional integrity. Strike what I said before … they lack the ability to do the right thing in even the most simplest scenario.


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