“This popular waterfront nightclub features sweeping views of The Palisades and draws celebs like Jay Z and Beyonce with its bottle service and DJs.”
– profile in AMNY guide to Inwood, June 22, 2016
The concession was originally described by Parks during the RFP phase as being a “restaurant and a marina”. In the 2009 License Agreement the land use was expanded to a “restaurant and lounge”. Various documents in the media and submitted to the city between 2008-2011 referred to the southern portion of the site as a “grill” or a “cafe“. Grubstreet described it in 2011 as “featuring open-air cafés Costera and 315, plus a snack stand named Bocados”.
But at some point before opening, the use was changed and the cafe portion of the site became the Beach, for concert use, while the outdoor patio next to the restaurant became a bottle-service VIP area. Neither use was approved by Parks; the contract actually prohibits concerts and requires public access. Nonetheless, these became primary uses along with the restaurant, and hours and capacity were extended by Parks (without due process) to suit.
However, unilateral and unauthorized changes by Parks could not change the fact that the building department authority (in this case Small Business Services, acting as the Dept of Ports with jurisdiction over the marina site) granted a Letter of Completion that only authorized Use Group 6. This use group is applicable to restaurants but not nightclubs:
Use Group 6 consists primarily of retail stores and personal service establishments which:
(1) provide for a wide variety of local consumer needs; and
(2) have a small service area and are, therefore, distributed widely throughout the City.
Restaurants, cafes and lounges can be covered by three different detailed descriptions:
Eating or drinking establishments, including those which provide outdoor table service or have music for which there is no cover charge and no specified showtime, and those which have accessory drive-through facilities
Eating or drinking establishments with entertainment, but not dancing, with a capacity of 200 persons
Eating or drinking establishments with musical entertainment but not dancing, with a capacity of 200 persons or fewer
Nightclubs require Use Group 12 because they are bigger, noisier and draw much more traffic from a wider area:
Use Group 12 consists primarily of fairly large entertainment facilities that:
(1) have a wide service area and generate considerable pedestrian, automotive or truck traffic; and
(2) are, therefore, appropriate only in secondary, major or central commercial areas.
Specifically, nightclubs are described as an Amusement use under Use Group 12:
Eating or drinking establishments with entertainment and a capacity of more than 200 persons, or establishments of any capacity with dancing
These zoning rules created a problem for the Dyckman Marina concession, since not only was the nightclub/concert use never approved under its Licence Agreement with Parks, it likely never could be with the building authorities either since Use Group 12 cannot exist in a residential zoning area. (Technically, Parks are unzoned, but the uses tend to be compatible with the surrounding areas). And so every mention of the concession in the media during the first two seasons very carefully only described it as a restaurant, partially to make every effort to build up the restaurant business, but also possibly to keep the nightlife uses out of the limelight and avoid the conflict with the occupancy documents.
However, not many “restaurants” have pat-down security, $100 tickets, bottle service, dancing, hookah, DJ booths, and professional sound systems pumping out very loud music until 1 am. The installer of the upgraded 18-speaker system installed in 2014 bragged that:
La Marina NYC’s new sound system was installed at the beginning of the summer season and, according to Diaz, has been operating very well, “This is a very high end place that attracts all kind of celebrities. I wanted a loudspeaker that not only sounds good, but looks good as well—and the D.A.S. WR Series was just right. Since the installation, all the various artists have been very satisfied with the new system. Equally important, the owners have been very happy with the new system. In a nutshell, they were ‘amazed’ by the performance of the equipment. Between the quality of the equipment and the level of D.A.S. Audio’s support, this project was a win-win for everyone involved.”
Patrons chimed in with their own opinions about the club-like security and dancing scene. Consider this August 2014 OpenTable review:
If you want to party down on a holiday weekend on the Hudson river this is the place to be. La Marina has a real “gangsta” feel to it from the police van parked out front to the multiple levels of security as you wend your way though the “cattle chutes”, but once inside (or outside as I’ll get to in a minute) it is a totally cool, happening urban scene.
This place is a bit pricey as a heads up. We came here for a night out. Parking at the place was 40. In the area it was 20/30. Draft beer was $7-8 for smaller cups.
The place itself it pretty cool. The view is amazing- you cant beat that .. The music is also great. However, not many people were dancing. Its kinda the place where you dance in your spot but there really isn’t a place that’s considered the dance floor area. They played a mix of old school hip hop which is my fave! Other downfall- it closes at 1. I have no idea why?!?!?!? So we went down the street to some other bars but it was a bummer.
Clearly this reviewer, who drove in from a location 45 min away in NJ, was not going out for dinner and drinks. She went to a place where she could valet park, pay a cover charge and dance to club music — and then complained when it closed only at 1 am. That’s not a restaurant or even a lounge. That’s a nightclub. And no wonder — many of the concerts are promoted and run by the Pacha Group, the worldwide nightclub franchise that has a 30,000 SF location in midtown Manhattan. To encourage their audience to drive uptown, the Pacha concerts are often advertised as being 10 minutes from Pacha’s midtown location, a feat only possible by driving 52 mph, without stopping for lights, straight to the concession gates (even on the Henry Hudson Parkway the speed limit is only 45 mph). Another tweet, from the DJ Boris Pacha-sponsored event on Sept 1, 2014:
By 2013 and 2014, media mentions were finally starting to regularly use the terms “nightclub” or “dance club“. In 2015 La Marina even issued its own VIP card, something common to nightclubs but not exactly typical for a restaurant. And yet no action has yet been taken by Parks or the SBS regarding the occupancy certificate and its wildly improper use group.
Twice complaints have been filed with the Dept of Buildings about the legal use. In 2012 a complaint for the wrong Certificate of Occupancy (i.e. use as a nightclub) was dismissed by simply referring the matter to the Dept. of Parks and Recreation. Another similar complaint was apparently filed in summer 2013. Look at how the DOB resolved it this time:
The complaint says DOB sent an inspector on Saturday, August 31 2013. There was a huge concert that night for Sunnery James (you can see a video of it here). The concert was even put on by the nightclub Pacha. But the inspector saw “no night club or concerts at above location at time of inspection”? Apparently the doors opened at 4 pm and the actual main acts would not have gone on until much later, so what time was the inspection, 11 am? Or did the inspector visit the restaurant part of La Marina and ignore the concert going on at the beach next door because he considered it a different area not subject to the complaint as worded (which mentioned the word “restaurant”)? The normal rules and regulations of New York seem to magically be suspended when it comes to Dyckman Marina. Where else, after all, can you have no DCA certificate and no zoning approval for dancing, but advertise dancing nonetheless?
“It’s easy to call us a nightclub”, the concession operators said with derision at a May 2015 public meeting, emphasizing that they were not. And yet, by the end of the month, they advertised again on their Facebook page for “the best outdoor dance party”. Yeah, not a nightclub, no dancing, nothing to see here, move along.
Restoring the use to a Restaurant and Marina and eliminating the nightclub/concert venue uses will bring the concession back into compliance with its occupancy documents and intended and approved use.