The Real War on Brunch in Williamsburg

Food blogs and local papers have been chewing over a something that gets us very, very nervous. They say there is a war on brunch.

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Food blogs and local papers have been chewing over a matter that gets us very, very nervous. They say there is a war on something that we hold close to our hearts, something American as apple pie (or huevos rancheros, or eggs Benedict, or biscuits and gravy). They say there is a war on brunch. First women, now brunch! Is nothing sacred? (No, nothing is sacred.)

This "war on brunch," which has gone on for some 21-days at this point, comes to light again via the Brooklyn Paper Wednesday. Councilman Steve Levin, a Greenpoint Democrat, is taking measures to end the war. But what, exactly, is the war on brunch? Restaurants are not supposed to serve food and drink on sidewalk cafés before noon on Sundays, per a 30-year-old city law. Meanwhile, state laws allow for brunch "as early as 8 a.m."

Aaron Short writes in the Brooklyn Paper that Levin's proposed, in-the-works bill "could diffuse a conflict that erupted last month when Community Board 1 leaders warned city officials that several Northside cafes were violating the seldom-enforced Sunday morning outdoor brunch ban."

One of those restaurants, Lokal, which sits north of McCarren Park near the Greenpoint/Williamsburg border, was subject to a raid by city inspectors and given a summons for setting up tables outside at 9:35 a.m. on a Sunday. Five Leaves, across the street, was struck by inspectors the very next weekend. In this war, the lines are drawn: Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, steadfast in his belief in the right to brunch al fresco in the a.m. and hungry morning people on one side; city inspectors, religiously minded folks trying to get to and from church without being waylaid by mimosa-drinking crowds, and, allegedly, community boards who are urging people to call 311 if they "see something" on the other. Then there's the side of denial (every war has one): According to the Brownstoner blog, quoting Tom Burrows, the chair of the Community Board 1 public safety committee, “there is no war on brunch in Williamsburg and Greenpoint—this is a way of selling papers.”

A trumped-up local issue over a very important matter being used to sell papers? How un-brunchlike.

If Levin's legislation passes (he says it's "in the very early stages" and he is "still listening to all the stakeholders, including the brunching community, the religious community, and the religious brunching community"), Brooklyn restaurants would be able to operate in full brunch-mode on Sunday mornings, even though, generally, the early morning brunch ban has rarely been enforced in the first place—until now, apparently.

To be purely semantic, however, there seems to be more at stake in this war, and it is indeed shaky ground we're resting on. That is the definition of brunch, itself: Not a legal one, not a commercial one, but the real-life true meaning of the word. See, 8 a.m. brunch is not brunch. 8 a.m. brunch is breakfast. As much as Greenpointers or Brooklynites or anyone else wants to eat outside in the pre-noon hours of what will surely someday be a lovely spring and summer, we must hold fast to the philosophy that brunch does not exist until, earliest, 11 a.m. Some hardliners have been heard to insist that true "brunch" doesn't happen until after 1 p.m.!

If you want to eat outside at 8 a.m., so be it, but you're not eating brunch. Those are just eggs, and this is a war on breakfast. Also, who gets up before 11 a.m. on Sunday in Williamsburg or Greenpoint? Leave it alone, and this war shall solve itself.

Image via Shutterstock by Josh Resnick.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.