EMM Group’s Plans for 199 Bowery Approved: Bakery, Asian/Fusion, Jazz

The team behind Abe & Arthur's, SL and other successful ventures persuaded Community Board 3 to support their liquor license for the enormous space that formerly housed mega-club BLVD/Crash Mansion.

Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum, dubbed “The New Kings of New York Nightlife” by Forbes, frequent hosts to celebrities and all-around restaurant-industry “it” guys, had a hot date last night.

For the better part of an hour, the stylishly outfitted, articulate partners hovered at the edge of a folding table full of decider-types in a fluourescent-lit meeting room on East 5th Street. They listed their accomplishments and made their case that they should be entrusted with a full bar permit for a new venture at 199 Bowery, the former home of mega-club/neighborhood nightmare BLVD/Crash Mansion.

It worked.

Community Board 3’s SLA committee approved the proposal, paving the way for an 18,000-square-foot restaurant/nightclub, which, if all goes according to plan, will be the first Lower East Side addition to Remm and Birnbaum’s swanky portfolio. Under the name EMM Group, the pair are the proprietors of the Meatpacking District’s Abe & Arthur’s, SL and Catch as well as a “members-only lifestyle management service” in the Hamptons and several other restaurants and nightclubs in Manhattan and New Jersey. EMM’s high-profile establishments draw an A-list clientele, as well as earn the partners regular appearances in national media such as GQ.

“This is an amazing opportunity for us,” Remm said. “This is an opportunity to come downtown, to do something that has a little edge. We are looking to be creative, to do something outside the box.”

At first, the presentation was all about the bakery. The partners described in detail their plan to open a bakery in the glass-enclosed, streetside portion of the enormous interior. Overseen by pastry chef Thiago Silva, the bakery will open at 6 a.m. for before-work coffee-seekers, but also offer custom-designed cakes shaped, for instance, like race cars. As the day turns to night, the bakery  would serve as an entrance to the larger dining space, which will offer small plates, tapas-style, on a menu supervised by “Top Chef” winner Hung Huynh.

Downstairs, the former Crash Mansion venue will provide more casual dining with a “1920s vibe” and live music, probably jazz, they proposed.

Several neighbors spoke up to oppose the plan due to fears of renewing the late-night noise and mess that reigned at 199 Bowery under its previous tenant. “I lived through BLVD and it was totally insane,” said one.

The partners were quick with reassurances that their show will be very different. Birnbaum explained that when they created Abe & Arthur’s, their West 14th Street restaurant, it replaced a similar mega-club, Lotus, that had alienated all of its neighbors as well. Over two years in, they have not drawn any complaints about noisy patrons on the street, smelly garbage or other neighborhood downsides, Birnbaum said.

They pair drew assists from several supporters who testified to their excellent business practices, including Bob Zuckerman, of the LES Business Improvement District, who checked their references.

“I spoke to lots of folks on the west side who raved about them,” Zuckerman told the committee members. Those sources included the chair of Community Board 2, he said.

Zuckerman wholeheartedly endorsed the plan.

“It’s a big space, and someone’s got to fill it,” he said. In addition to occupying a large, now-vacant property that’s seen several failed proposals since BLVD closed, Birnbaum and Remm’s plan would create at least 200 jobs in the neighborhood, several supporters noted.