Will the Ridgewood Masonic Temple’s lights be extinguished by a ban on temporary liquor licenses? Photo by Diego Cupolo for BushwickBK
A local events venue is in trouble with the police after a series of liquor licensing issues, with possibly dire financial consequences for the organization that owns it.
The 83rd Precinct elected to block alcohol sales at the Ridgewood Masonic Temple, at 1054 Bushwick Avenue, which caused a last-minute site change for a scheduled New Year’s Eve show thrown by local indie-rock promoter Todd Patrick. Patrick is known to Brooklyn showgoers as Todd P.
The Temple is zoned as a fraternal organization or church, and temporary liquor permits are issued to promoters for individual events. To obtain a permit, a promoter has to go to the Community Affairs Office at the NYPD precinct to submit ID for a background check.
According to Ridgewood Masonic Temple manager Frank Williams, an organizer for a non-music event in November did not get his permit in time, but threw his event anyhow. The police randomly dropped in on the event and discovered the infraction. Because of this and other previous incidents at RMT, the precinct decided to block the issuance of any more temporary liquor permits for events held there. Patrons are not even allowed to bring their own alcohol. Though the NY State Liquor Authority issues the permits, the local police precinct has jurisdiction to deny one. As a result, Patrick moved the event to 285 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, where he could legally sell alcohol.
"[Community Affairs] Officer [Damarys] Franco was very understanding," Patrick told BushwickBK, "her feeling is just that they’ve given [RMT] a lot of chances, and she’s going to stop cutting them any slack."
The Temple hosts many events, from car shows to graduation parties, the occasional meeting of Masons, as well as offering a legal space for indie-rock shows. It also served as a location in a movie shoot in 2009.
"There’s really very few outlets for adults to have entertainment in this community," said Patrick.
Patrick’s decision to move the event was social as well as economic. "New Year’s Eve is not any fun dry," he said. "If we don’t sell alcohol, we can’t pay for the place. Unless you’re not paying the talent, you’re either [charging] $25 a head or you’re selling alcohol." $15 tickets for the show sold out shortly after the location was moved.
Williams said the Temple has contacted lawyers and plans to secure a liquor license for the venue rather than leaving it to event organizers to obtain their own permits. They also plan to renovate the space. In the meanwhile, upcoming events will have to be dry.
"We had to call and tell the event organizers," Williams said. "We had to give deposits back and move to different dates."
Patrick is well-versed in zoning laws and alcohol restrictions, especially after last year’s police shut-down of illegal venue Market Hotel, which he co-founded and is now trying to reopen as a legal space. He noted that Ridgewood Masonic Temple would need to have a cabaret license in order to then obtain a liquor license, and in this case the cabaret license is itself dependent on the venue renovations. A cabaret license is required for businesses in which patrons are allowed to dance and food or drink is also served.
But, Patrick points out, since the building is not zoned commercially it will not be easy to finance renovations due to RMT’s dubious legal status.
“They’re facing a sad series of catch-22s and unfortunately all signs point to the place disappearing from the Bushwick cultural map,” the promoter said.
All of these problems could be solved for the Masons if they succeed in selling the building, currently listed for one million dollars.