Popularity has a price.
The owners Havana Café, one of the borough’s top restaurants, are trying to find a way to peacefully coexist with the surrounding community.
After recently expanding, the three partners are now in the throes of trying to keep their neighbors happy.
Adjacent homeowners have complained of excessive noise levels emanating from the eatery’s rooftop heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and loud music from inside the restaurant.
Co-owner Ruben Rodriguez said that the restaurant, located at 3151 E. Tremont Avenue, has agreed to construct a sound absorption wall around the HVAC unit to the rear of the leased space to remedy the problem on the LaSalle Avenue side.
The voluntary move will be entirely at the restaurant’s expense because the building’s landlord has not agreed to make the improvements, he said.
“He doesn’t have to do it, and technically, we don’t have to do it either,” said Rodriguez, noting that they are not exceeding the regulatory sound level.
Neighbors, concerned about noise, brought their issues to Community Board 10’s Economic Development committee when it came time for Havana Café to renew its liquor license in February. The State Liquor Authority takes into consideration a community board’s advisory opinion on liquor licenses. Rodriguez is a CB 10 member.
According to CB 10, there have been chronic noise complaints at Havana Café, but the owners have always complied with 45th Precinct requests.
Police sources have said that they have measured the noise level just outside the restaurant several times, and it has always been within the legal limit.
“People were complaining about the HVAC equipment, so we asked them to put up a wall - they had installed the wall, but it had collapsed due to weather conditions,” said Kenneth Kearns, CB 10 district manager of the planned parapet wall. “And they have agreed to even take it further by bringing in sound engineers and doing all sorts of studies to make the place even quieter.”
CB 10 has written a letter to both the landlord and the restaurant on this matter, he said.
According to a source at CB 10, the owners of Havana Café are very sensitive to the community. Two of the owners live in Throggs Neck, and they even run a culinary program in local high schools at their own expense.
They have gradually expanded their business, and also operate concessions at Orchard Beach. They are one of just three borough restaurants listed in the prestigious Michelin Guide, and the only Cuban restaurant to be listed, said Rodriguez.
CB 10 board member and local activist Annie Boller, who lives nearby, said she and some of her neighbors have had issues with Havana Café relating to hearing what they perceive as loud music coming from the café. However, since recent board meetings addressing the matter, the noise levels have abated, she said.
“We don’t need a wall or whatever, all they needed to do was lower the music,” said Boller, who added that the noise from the HVAC was a separate issue.
The music at the restaurant is part of the experience that the patrons expect, said Rodriguez, and is integral to a Cuban café.
Rodriguez said he was glad that the only issue at his establishment as far as the community is concerned is noise.
Mary Jane Musano, board member of the Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association, said that the issues discussed at the community board should be fairly easy to fix.
“It is really not complicated,” she said.
Musano, an experienced community leader, added: “It is a very nice restaurant and the food is really good there as well. So why not follow through and be a star in the community? That would be wonderful.”