Correction, March 21, 2013: The story below has been corrected to reflect that Community Board did in fact support a full liquor license for Sunshine Co. following the state's determination that a nearby church building was not solely functioning as a church. We apologize for the mistake.
Concluding a 10-month battle, Sunshine Co., the restaurant and bar on Washington Avenue, has been granted a full liquor license by the SLA.
Co-owner Alexander Hall, who also owns Milk Bar, got word Thursday following a State Liquor Authority hearing a day earlier.
"My jaw almost hit the ground," he said. "I couldn't believe it. I thought we were going to have to wait another three months."
Hall and partners Sabrina Godfrey and Kenny Nix plan to begin offering liquor on Monday.
In December, Sunshine Co. opened without alcohol. Last month, they received a wine and beer license, opened the bar and began serving dinner. But the true vision for Sunshine Co. is as an upscale cocktail bar, :like The Clover Club, but in a more casual, friendly, non-pretensious way," Godfrey says.
In approving the license, the State Liquor Authority gave the bar an exception from a regulation prohibiting bars selling hard liquor from opening within 200 feet of a house of worship, because the bar is across the street from a church, Mission for Today Fellowship Hall. (The bar also violates the "500 foot rule" that prohibits more than three bars from opening within 500 feet from each other, but making an exception to that rule was not as controversial.)
Because of the church, Community Board 8 initially voted to only support a wine and beer license. But at a later meeting, the board voted to support the full liquor license if the state deemed Mission for Today to be in a mixed use building, which negates the 200-foot rule.Get local stories like this one right in your inbox each morning. Click here for fast sign-up for our daily newsletter.
Sunshine Co.'s owners argued that the Mission for Today building is not used exclusively as a church because the adjoining beauty salon and dog groomer are connected internally to the church as are actually part of the same building. The SLA agreed.
Following the state's decision, the board supported the full license with the stipulation that the outdoor cafe close at 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 p.m. weekends.
Misson for Today's Pastor German Cayetano contends the buildings are separate, saying that lots of old buildings are connected internally.
"If you were to look at the building, there are three parts," he said, adding, "There are people who know the language very well and they use the language to bring about whatever they want."
Community members who supported the waivers argued that the storefront has been vacant for four years and that Sunshine Co. would improve the strip, while those against it said it would be disrespectful to the community and to the half-century-old church to allow a bar to open across the street from it.
Hall said Sunshine Co. is bringing not only a new restaurant but also more jobs to the neighborhood. Of the restaurant's 26 employees, 23 of them live in Prospect Heights, he said.
"I gave five young kids their first ever job. It's a positive thing I'm doing," he said.