Mangia e Bevi, a nighttime spot at 702 Morris Park Avenue, has been taking heat from residents of the community for some time now. But on Wednesday, June 2, its co-manager George Sage, 48, of Locust Point, brought it upon himself to appear at the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance meeting and address locals face to face.
“I told them the truth,” said Sage about his appearance and brief announcement at the meeting, where vice president Bernadette Ferrara introduced him by outlining the troubles that the bar has had with the neighborhood.
“I told them that we are well aware of the issues, and that we are working harder than ever to put a stop to them. That’s all we can do.”
Now, two weeks later, complaints still linger, and some believe that in time, they’ll succeed in shutting the business down. Joe Bombace, a member of Community Board 11 and outspoken local activist, suggested that the location itself is kind of cursed.
“Rocky’s was shut down due to problems, then the spot became MP Pub,” he said. “That place was a problem too and we shut that down. Now these guys with Mangia Bevi are in the picture, and it’s not much better.”
Bombace said that he and some members of the VNNA have attempted to get the establishment closed, but so far haven’t had much support from elected officials. At a recent community board meeting at which locals had the chance to speak up against the establishment, barely any came, which Bombace insists was due to intimidation and a last-minute meeting time change.
“I know for a fact there are people have a problem with this place,” he said, “but they’re afraid to speak up. There have been incidents with the management intimidating those who complain about the place — offensive remarks, racial slurs, putting glue in the locks.” None of these incidents has been verified, but Sage denies any wrongdoing and stands by his establishment.
“There isn’t any trust in us from the neighborhood, I understand that,” he said. “That’s because of the clientele that used to go there in the past. And sometimes there are still noise complaints. But now the clientele has changed dramatically.”
Sage also outlined a number of steps he has taken to address problems, including putting a lock on the door to the patio after 8 p.m., locking the jukebox so it cannot be used, and constantly telling customers to quiet down.
“It’s tough right now,” he acknowledged. “But you know what? It’s hard to have a bar without noise. If people go outside and smoke, and sometimes there are 10 or 12 people out there, that causes noise. The neighbors don’t want them in the back patio smoking, so they have to go out front.”
At the moment, the club has a new liquor license pending. Its current license runs out in July of 2011. Sage is confident they’ll get the new one, and indeed, Community Board 11 co-chair Al D’Angelo will be recommending they get their new license at the June 24 meeting of CB 11, where there will be a final vote on whether to give them a license or not. But Bombace said he plans to vote against it, and might have some constituents turn out to voice their displeasure.
“This community does not need a new sports bar,” he said. “We are looking for a neighborhood establishment, and I feel we are not going to have that in this place.” Bombace and others have pointed to the many trips that officers of the 49th Precinct have had to make over to the bar.
Mangia e Bevi opens at 4 p.m. during the week and closes around midnight, but stays open til about 3 a.m. on weekends.
Sage remains committed to improving the bar’s reputation, but also realistic.
“Game Day Grille [a bar in Throggs Neck] is where I worked last, and that also had many issues early on. But I learned a lot of lessons from working there, let’s put it that way.”