Community Board Approves Liquor Permit For Gracias Mama; Distance From Church Still An Issue

162 East Broadway.

162 East Broadway.

On Tuesday evening, Community Board 3 voted to support a liquor license for Gracias Mama, a Mexican taqueria at 162 East Broadway.

But in a resolution approved 29-11 (with 3 abstentions), the board asked the State Liquor Authority to review whether the establishment is subject to the 200 Foot Rule. That’s a provision in state law that prohibits liquor licenses located “on the same street and within 200 feet” of a school or church. St. Teresa’s Church is located at 16-18 Rutgers St., one block away from the proposed restaurant.

Nima Garos (of the Little Italy spot Gelso & Grand) and Koorosh Bakhtiar had won the support of the SPaCE Block Association, which negotiated reduced operating hours for the business (midnight weeknights, 1 a.m. weekends). But members of other block associations opposed the application. They are distressed by the proliferation of permits in the immediate area. Some people have also lamented the displacement (or at least the perceived displacement) of a Chinese bakery and newsstand ensconced on this corner for many years.

The applicants said they hired a surveyor, who concluded that the distance (door to door) between the church and the restaurant is 214 feet. Many neighbors disagree. It will now be up to the State Liquor Authority to decide. A lot will depend whether officials measure from the front door of the church at 16 Rutgers St., or from the handicap-access ramp, which is several feet closer to the restaurant.

You can see our previous coverage of this story here and here.

st teresas/google map

Google map; St. Teresa’s Church is on the left side of this image, while the restaurant is located on the corner, accross East Broadway.


“Gracias Mama” Team Wins a Round at CB3, But Liquor Permit Battle Isn’t Over Yet

162 East Broadway.

162 East Broadway.

A proposal for a Mexican restaurant called Gracias Mama at 162 East Broadway won the support last night of the Community Board 3 panel that evaluates liquor licenses. But opponents of the new business are hoping a measuring stick is their best weapon in persuading the State Liquor Authority to downgrade the permit to beer/wine only.

Nima Garos (of the Little Italy spot Kelso & Grand) and Koorosh Bakhtiar are preparing to open a 45-seat taqueria. The restaurant would have a service window and be open beginning at 7 a.m. for breakfast and lunch, as well as dinner. A gut renovation of a former Chinese bakery and newsstand is well underway.

While the SPaCE Block Association worked out stipulations with the owners, including reduced operating hours, other neighborhood activists have balked at the plan for a full bar. The Orchard Street Block Association, Residents of Two Bridges (ROTB) and LES Dwellers argue that the area is becoming too over saturated with nightlife establishments. They believe a bull bar would be in violation of a state law – the 200 Foot Rule, which “prohibits certain licenses from being issued if the location of the establishment is on the same street and within 200 feet of a building that is used exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or other place of worship.” St. Teresa’s Church is located at 16-18 Rutgers St., one block away at Henry Street. It will be up to the State Liquor Authority to decide if the new restaurant is l more or less than 200 feet from the church.

Some residents testifying last night lamented the loss of mom-and-pop businesses and ethnic stores. They accused the applicants of failing to reach out in multiple languages to the mostly immigrant community in the immediate area. CB3 Chairperson Gigi Li questioned the owners about the following statement, which was part of their original application: “We are also aiming to improve a dilapidated part of the neighborhood and reinvigorate the whole corner on East Broadway.”  It was removed from later versions of the application.  Last night, they claimed never to have used those words (they called them a ‘fabrication’). You can see the relevant excerpt from their questionnaire here:

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Excerpt from the applicants’ original application.

The building, 162 East Broadway, was sold by Chinese owners this past December for $6.6 million. Last night, the applicants stated that the bakery and newsstand had been on month-to-month leases, but were not pushed out. The new property owners (or at least one of the property owners) also owns the Grand Street building in Little Italy in which Kelso & Grand, is located.

There were 17 speakers last night, many of them testifying in favor of the proposal. Some of them are loyal customers of the Little Italy restaurant, which they described as well run and family oriented. Others said they’re looking forward to a high quality Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood. Amy Robinson, who lives nearby, told committee members she’s enthusiastic about having a nighttime establishment alongside the F train stairwell, which can be a dangerous area in the evenings.

The committee approved operating hours of 7 a.m.-midnight during the week, with an extra hour on weekends. The committee’s recommendation will be revisited by the full board later in the month.

A New Taqueria, Gracias Mama, is Opening at 162 East Broadway

162 East Broadway.

162 East Broadway.

Two New York City restaurant veterans are aiming to open what they’re calling an ‘authentic Mexican taqueria” in a corner space at East Broadway and Rutgers streets.

They’ve tentatively named the new venue “Gracias Mama,” in a section of the neighborhood increasingly becoming a food and nightlife hot spot. Mission Chinese is right across the street. A cafe called Little Canal will soon open in an adjacent building. And, of course, Division Street and Canal Street have transformed into a dining corridor in the past few years.

An application for a full liquor license has been submitted to Community Board 3 by Nima Garos and Koorosh Bakhtiar. Garos opened Kelso & Grand, an upscale Italian restaurant, in Little Italy last year. Bakhtiar has been involved in several NYC projects, including the restaurant at the Gansevoort Hotel and the Hillstone Restaurant in Midtown.

According to the application, they’re creating an affordable restaurant with ingredients sourced directly from Oaxaca, Mexico and a “curated tequila list.” Garos and Bakhtiar are planning all-day service, beginning at 7 a.m. and continuing until 4 a.m. on weekends. There will be as many as 50 seats, including a 14-seat bar meant for both drinking and dining. They’re also installing a takeaway window. The applicants noted, “We are also aiming to improve a dilapidated part of the neighborhood and reinvigorate the whole corner on East Broadway.”

Linda Jones of the SPaCE Block Association tells us the applicants have met with local residents about the restaurant. The organization is supportive of their plan, but will insist on an earlier closing time. The proposal will be considered at a community board meeting Monday, March 14, 6:30 p.m., at 59 East 4th St.

You can see the full application, including sample menus, below.