In the four years Sound Fix has been in business, it’s become one of the city’s best-loved independent music stores and a Brooklyn alternative to Other Music. About a year ago the store took over the cafe in the rear of its building on North 11th and Bedford and began using the space as a bar and performance space. The Sound Fix Lounge has hosted acts like the Mountain Goats, Beirut, Kimya Dawson, and Camera Obscura. But the venue has been silent for three weeks now and may be imperiled, says owner James Bradley, because city agencies have been serving violation upon violation on the performance space and have also started targeting the record store itself. According to Bradley, the Dept. of Health, the Dept. of Buildings, and the Police Dept. have all issued violations on the business, many of them requiring court appearances. “It’s been really overwhelming,” says Bradley. The record store owner believes the violations are rooted in complaints from a couple of neighbors who live in an adjacent building, one of whom, Teresa Polonski, works for Assemblyman Joseph Lentol. “I’m sympathetic to noise complaints, and we’ve done a lot to try to mitigate the noise,” says Bradley. “All this seems to be really excessive to me.” The Dept. of Health shut down the Sound Fix Lounge after serving it with three violations for operating without a food license; the first violation was issued March 6th, the second on March 8th, and the third on March 28th. “On 3/28 the establishment was swarmed by inspectors and shut down. I was advised by DOH that this was actually a Mayor’s task force,” says Mikelle V. Komor of Wagner Davis P.C., one of the attorneys working for Sound Fix. “When we appeared for the hearing on the first two violations on 4/1, the hearing officer at the Administrative Tribunal called the issuance of the two violations in two days inequitable and unconscionable.” Although Bradley tried to renew the license, the DOH has’t let him because it has records of unpaid fines from the space’s previous owners. Bradley says the establishment’s liquor license has been in limbo for nine months, and “one official said the agency was under pressure ‘from Albany’ to put us through the ringer.” Assemblyman Lentol says he “vaguely remembers” Polonski complaining about Sound Fix but “I refute that I have put any pressure on the city to close the place down.” Lentol says “everything’s that’s happened has come out of the community board.”
Meanwhile, about a week ago, the DOB affixed a note to Sound Fix’s door saying the record store and lounge were both in violation of zoning laws. Although both businesses are in an area zoned for residential use, the space has an active Certificate of No Objection that allows Bradley to operate them. A call to the DOB for clarification was not returned. Police officers have served about five summonses on the lounge in the past few months “for very flimsy things,” says Bradley. “The officers are always very nice, and one of them said to me, ‘Our captain has a hard-on for you guys.'” Attorney Steven R. Wagner, who is also representing Bradley, says what’s happening to the business “seems like a campaign of harassment. We will defend Sound Fix so that this well-known store and indie venue stay open.” As the Times reported today, Sound Fix’s problems are not 100% unique; record stores all over the city are having a tough time making a go of it nowadays. Outstanding issues with the DOH notwithstanding, Regina Spektor is scheduled to perform at the lounge tomorrow afternoon in celebration of Record Store Day. GMAP
Top photo by pauldini; other by Leia Jospe.