On many Sundays like this one, my family and I enjoy the closest thing we have to a Sunday morning ritual, brunch. As reported recently in Brooklyn Magazine, our Sunday ritual is coming into a strange, old-meets-new conflict with another Sunday morning ritual:

Around this time last year, we all had a little bit of a scare about a so-called War on Brunch, in which older, presumably pious Greenpoint residents started fussing about sidewalk brunch seating literally blocking their routes to church on Sunday mornings. Tame and sort of silly as far as these things go, except that they actually did have the law on their side, thanks to a decades-old (and mostly ignored) regulation barring restaurants from serving outdoors anytime before noon on Sunday mornings. Now that it's nice again, this problem is back!

The regulation and its current application, paraphrased in an earlier New York Times article, goes like this:

An obscure city law, probably meant to accommodate the serenity of the Christian day of rest, bars cafes from setting out tables on the sidewalk before noon on Sundays. The rule is being cited in an effort to shut down outdoor brunches at two sidewalk cafes, and it is a rule that both cafe owners and officials charged with enforcement have mostly ignored.       

To tell the truth, I'm not sure where I stand on this. On the one hand, as a recovering fundamentalist Christian I can attest that brunch is a lot more fun than church, and most times more worthwhile. On the other, the story can also be framed (and in fact often is framed) as the gentrifying brunchers vs. the old school immigrants who settled the borough long before, in this case the waterfront neighborhood of Greenpoint:

...A bastion of immigrants from Poland...for the past decade has seen an influx of hipsters, young professionals and condo owners who have imported their flâneur lifestyles and more freewheeling religious outlooks to a historically blue-collar neighborhood of row houses, ethnic shops, small factories and old churches.       

Of course, this could be a non-story soon, as Williamsburg/Greenpoint councilman Stephen Levin is presenting the case for moving the opening time for sidewalk brunch to 10am to the city with a dramatic flair that makes me love local politics:

The time is now for the war on brunch to end. Meals have been lost on both sides and the uneaten stack of pancakes continues to grow.  I am certain this bill will go over-easy with New Yorkers hungry for common-sense brunch regulations and hopeful that the bill will move through committee and be passed by the full Council before more people have to sacrifice brunch for lunch.

Bon Appetit! Or Amen. Or whatever. 


AuthorJohn Proctor