Anna Wintour has been campaigning against the Jamaican restaurant Miss Lily's, which is hoping to open near her Village townhouse. The Vogue editor claims that because restaurant/club owner Serge Becker is involved, it's guaranteed to turn into a shitshow. Really?
Along with other concerned residents from her West Village neighborhood, Anna Wintour testified against the opening of the restaurant at a community board meeting last month. "I know the kind of places he's involved in and the kind of people that he brings," she reportedly said about Becker at the meeting, which took place in a church basement and reportedly required Wintour to sit in metal folding chair. Why the opening of the restaurant would concern Wintour so much has everything to do with its location: The property, located at 132 W. Houston Street, abuts MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens, a private oasis that residents of only 22 houses—including Wintour's—have access to. So that's the rub: it's a case of a rich person who wants to make sure that no one can go to a restaurant, so that they can keep their little secret garden nice and peaceful.
Residents were first tipped off to the restaurant when Becker, who co-owns The Box among other New York venues, called one of the Garden's members and asked for access so he could do acoustic testing to make sure the restaurant wouldn't cause any outside noise. "Well, if he's doing that, he must be already booking DJs!" the residents practically shouted while clutching their pearls.
The real problem is that the city is filled with pesky people who make it almost impossible for restaurants and nightlife venues in the city to open their doors. La Esquina, which is associated with Becker, was briefly shuttered this spring thanks to a nosy neighbor who makes a habit of closing down establishments near her SoHo apartment (but not the SoHo House—she would probably hate that place). Last fall the trendy Jane Hotel was effectively closed thanks to a full-scale press and political offensive waged by the neighbors. That's why Becker wanted to do acoustic testing; he's a veteran of these situations and knows that if the sound of a breaking glass slips out the back door, someone is going call 311 to complain that their night of watching CSI: Los Angeles was interrupted.
For Becker's part, he and his partners say they just want to open a restaurant with a James Beard Award-winning chef (the award means he cooks very well, not that he has great facial hair). They've also been (wisely) downplaying Becker's role, saying he was only brought on to help design the joint. As for the boldface muscle trying to keep him down, Becker had this to say: "Anna is the protector of community? It's just the funniest thing I've ever heard."
Tangling with Anna Wintour may very well be a losing cause, but it's hard to have much sympathy for the outrage being expressed by a tony few so they can keep their exclusive bower safe from noise and traffic. Sure, no one ever wants anything in their backyard, but if you want a townhouse with a beautiful garden and neighbors that will leave you alone, then maybe you should move to Brooklyn. That's what it's there for.