Owner of popular Brooklyn restaurant receives denial for his DJ dance party on open streets
The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) disagrees with Omarahe Guarriello, owner of the American Vegan restaurant, surrounding the dance party of the DJ from Guarriello who, according to PHNDC president Gib Veconi, is disturbing local residents.
On Saturday nights at American Vegan, located at 612 Vanderbilt Avenue, Guarriello hosts DJ Misbehavior in front of his take-out restaurant while serving vegan fast food to local residents.
The Hip Hop and House Music mini dance party takes place during Open Streets, a weekend program launched during the pandemic to bring economic relief to local businesses. Open Streets temporarily shuts off traffic and invites pedestrians to the streets to enjoy outdoor dining and social fun.
Open Streets on the whole has been a hit with Brooklyn residents and business owners. And the one on Vanderbilt Street is one of the busiest and most popular in Brooklyn.
So what is the problem?
Part of the problem is that PHNDC is leveraging Open Streets. And when the program started in late summer 2020, Guarriello decided not to sign.
Guarriello explains that his business was doing well during the pandemic, before Open Streets has started. “When I was proposed with Open Streets, I immediately knew it would hurt my business,” Guarriello said.
“The program was aimed at helping restaurant-dining, which is very narrow,” he said. “Buses and cars can’t go through the whole weekend. Open Streets therefore does not take into account other businesses such as massage parlors, vintage furniture stores, supermarkets, and take out businesses that rely on regular foot traffic.
He said his business depended on easy access to the restaurant for motorists and delivery staff, as well as a constant flow of pedestrians looking to grab a quick bite on the way to Prospect Park. He said that during the first weekends of Open Streets, when traffic was cut off, Urban Vegan saw sales drop dramatically, Guarriello said.
“It just seems to me perfectly legitimate to allow people to sit and hang out in the middle of the street, especially when Prospect Park is right there,” Guarriello said. “It’s not very New York, and it’s not fair.”
Still, 24 restaurants along Vanderbilt Avenue, most of which are sit-down restaurants, participate in Open Streets and have catered for laid-back crowds and persistent patrons.
Then last summer, DJ Misbehavior walked in and asked Guarriello if she could move outside of his establishment. As his business suffered, Guarriello figured he had nothing to lose and started hosting Misbehavior on Saturday nights.
The response he received from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.
However, according to Veconi, locals have made noise complaints about the music. Veconi did not specify how many complaints there were, nor what was said in the complaints, but added: “We are always trying to engage the owner, and it is really a question of his willingness to solve these problems. “
Last summer, Guarriello said, the facility received complaints from Veconi every Saturday. At one point, Guarriello said, health inspectors showed up back to back, out of the blue, although they never identified any violations in the store.
Despite the noise complaints, there are a lot of Brooklynites who go to American Vegan specifically to enjoy the music on Saturday nights. Ariel Nadelstern, a local and long-time DJ Misbehavior follower, is one of them.
Nadelstern followed DJ Misbehavior for a decade before helping him secure his place ahead of American Vegan. She said she felt something was missing to bring Open Streets together, and American Vegan felt like the “most interesting” company in the neighborhood.
“All last summer, when everything was closed, we were able to swing on the block and have so much fun,” said Nadelstern. “All of a sudden, Vanderbilt came back real.”
Another local resident standing outside Urban Vegan agreed: “It was here for a lot of us last summer when there wasn’t much to do and it provided an incredible sense of community. It was one of the rare occasions to see people outdoors in a safe environment, having fun and connecting. It’s just great to see him again.
Another part of the problem with Veconi’s persistent complaints, Guarriello hinted, could be the type about the music he played: he said that Veconi suggested that he play more “professional” music.
Still, noise complaints continue. Last Saturday in fact, at the time of this interview, a police officer was at the restaurant responding to another anonymous complaint for noise. Settling the dispute with Veconi was not easy, Guarriello said:
“I tried talking to him a few times, but he got a little threatening, saying my business wasn’t going to last long if I kept playing music. So, I just banned him from the restaurant.
Further, Guarriello wonders if Veconi represents residents and businesses along Vanderbilt Avenue or himself. He said that only one other woman besides Veconi had complained to him personally and that she did not ask him to end the music but to refuse it. But of all other indications, Urban Vegan remains the life of the block party.
Saturday nights at American Vegan provide an “oasis on this block for a few hours,” especially for New Yorkers who “run around this bustling city, grinding all the time,” Nadelstern said.
“When [DJ Misbehaviour] is there, we are seeing an increase of at least 100% of our revenue in the store, if not more, ”said Guarriello. “In fact, when the DJ is there, there is an increase in traffic and purchases in all the businesses. If anything, we are helping Open Streets.
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