As we mentioned earlier this morning, the former home of the beloved Amato Opera, 319 Bowery, is destined to become a new theater and restaurant. As Anthony Amato approached his 90th birthday last year, he made the difficult decision to call it quits, selling the building for $3.7 million to a new owner.
Last night at CB3’s SLA hearing, Enrico Ciotti of V Bar (West Village, St. Mark’s Place) outlined plans for the new venture. The proposal, which won the support of the committee, calls for small-scale (for about 100 people) theatrical performances and a 70-seat restaurant on the second floor. The performances would showcase young opera singers, and might also include some cabaret shows, galas and special events. The applicants have been talking with several local arts organizations, including P.S. 122 about bringing shows to the space, which will require a lengthy (and no doubt expensive) renovation.
Ciotti said the idea is to offer “fun, accessible theater” with the dining room open before the shows and afterwards. On weekends, there would probably be a midnight performance. Not everyone was enamored with the plan. One resident, who mentioned he also happens to run a theater organization, said he feared the project was really just a scheme to open yet another bar on the Bowery. He said it’s obviously not “legitimate theater.”
The chair of the SLA Committee, Alex Militano, also expressed some concerns. She brought up last year’s denial of Koi, a high-end restaurant that wanted to take over the Salvation Army building on the Bowery. “How is this project different?,” she asked. Militano also pointed out that Simon Hammerstein once promised CB3 “The Box” would be an “elegant dinner theater.” In the end, committee members seemed to agree that the concept – seemingly paying homage to a Bowery institution – was worthy of their support.