When the owner of Acropolis on Elmwood Avenue wanted to expand his business, neighbors voiced concerns about noise levels at the restaurant, and last year the Common Council responded, legislating restrictions.
Those restrictions were thrown out in court, and owner Paul Tsouflidis is now seeking a live music license from the city.
“Everybody has a music license, so I should have one too,” Tsouflidis said.
A reprise of the 2011-12 debate over the transformation of an Elmwood Village staple is expected on Feb. 20, when Tsouflidis will go to the city Zoning Board of Appeals to seek a license that will allow him to host karaoke and DJs who can use microphones.
“I can’t do any of that with the music license I have,” he said.
Alma Brown, who lives on Ashland Avenue behind the restaurant, said she expects neighbors to show up at the hearing.
“There’s no reason to grant a variance for this,” Brown said. “It’s been made clear by homeowners and people right in the neighborhood it’s not wanted.”
Brown said she wants the restaurant to succeed, but “they don’t have to be open until 2, 3 in the morning playing live music.”
Acropolis, at 708 Elmwood Ave., is near Cecelia’s and Blue Monk, which feature DJs and live music, and should be afforded the same opportunity, Tsouflidis said.
Only recorded music, not live music, is allowed in the district, which is why Tsouflidis must seek a variance from the Zoning Board.
The restaurant is too small to host a live band, but Tsouflidis would like the opportunity to have small ensembles play during brunch, he said.
John Higgins, owner of Elmwood Pet Supplies next door, said he is concerned that allowing live music at Acropolis would change the character of the neighborhood, which has made strides and become “more adult” since it was a strip of bars years ago.
“The nightclub thing seemed like a step in the wrong direction,” he said.
Higgins’ shop closes long before much of the live music would start at Acropolis, but Higgins said his upstairs tenants have moved out because of the noise next door.
“I don’t want any ill will,” he said. “I wish him success, just quiet success.”
Tsouflidis has rejected the characterization that he is trying to change his restaurant, which has a downstairs bar, into a nightclub. He noted that other establishments nearby are considered restaurants and have live music, and that 80 percent of his business is in food sales, not drinks.
Tsouflidis had built a bar on the second floor, but that was prohibited by the Council and he ripped it out. He would like to install a service bar, he said, in order to serve second-floor diners. Getting martinis up 22 stairs isn’t easy for the servers, he said.
Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto said Tsouflidis in the past has said one thing and done another, and in 2011 made changes to the restaurant before city approvals were granted.
“The amount of complaints we got from the Acropolis that summer were exponentially more than what we’ve gotten for the Blue Monk or Cecelia’s,” LoCurto said.
The Council had imposed nine restrictions, such as a prohibition on outdoor music and a limit on the number of seats upstairs.
The restrictions were “annulled, vacated and set aside” in State Supreme Court. The city has filed a notice that it would appeal, but has not yet filed the actual appeal.
Tsouflidis also is planning to open another location in Orchard Park or Hamburg, he said. He is deciding on a location and plans to be open in six to 15 months, depending on whether he uses an existing building or builds a new one.