32 Mulberry St.
Something possessed us to stop by Community Board 3’s liquor permit hearing last night (we will never learn). Here’s what happened during the three hours we were there.
The applicants of a Japanese restaurant in the the old Le Baron night club space on Mulberry Street were forced to withdraw their application. Jake Smith, a former television producer, is partnering with Kazuo Yoshida of the highly regarded Williamsburg sushi spot, 1 or 8.
Smith said he wanted to open a high-quality izakaya, including a small omakase bar and a more accessible (affordable) dining room. The place would be open until 4 a.m., catering to restaurant industry types. But Chinatown neighbors, including community board member Karlin Chan, lobbied against the application. They have bad memories of the now shuttered Le Baron, which they say brought noise, black cars and many disrespectful interlopers to Mulberry Street.
Gianni Cionchi (who works for a well-known Manhattan restaurant group) spoke in favor of the concept, but did more harm than good. Apparently trying to counter fears that the restaurant would morph into another club, Cionchi said the new venture would bring “an elevated dining experience” to Chinatown. It wouldn’t be catering to a “low-income clientele,” he added, alluding to the historic demographic makeup of the neighborhood. These comments did not sit well with Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li, a Chinatown resident. “There are about 10 things you just said that were extremely offensive,” she told Cionchi (he later apologized for the statements).
Li said she was concerned that the applicants failed to do enough community outreach. She also expressed worries about Smith’s co-applicant, Ron Castellano, who was one of the partners of Le Baron. There were questions, as well, about another partner, Max Levai, an owner of the controversial club, Happy Ending. Smith and Castellano said Levai (an art world insider) had agreed to supply art for the new restaurant in exchange for part ownership in the business. Castellano is a well-known figure on the Lower East Side. In addition to his nightlife ventures, he’s responsible for restoring The Forward Building and the Jarmulowsky Bank Building, and for starting the Hester Street Fair. He said the complaints about Le Baron were unwarranted.
In the end, Li persuaded Smith to withdraw his community board application. She encouraged him to become more familiar with the neighborhood and to reach out to more local residents before taking another run at a liquor permit. Committee Chair Alex Militano said the State Liquor Authority would likely be looking into whether a new permit at 32 Mulberry St. would violate the 200 Foot Rule. That provision of state law prohibits full liquor licenses within 200 feet of churches and school buildings. There are at least two churches in close proximity.
In other news last night, the committee approved a permit for Saluggi’s, the new Italian restaurant coming to 399 Grand St. Closing hours will be 1 a.m. weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Owner Bill Wall said he would come back to the board at a later date for permission to use a patio located in front of the restaurant.
Also, the large restaurant group that runs Serafina won approval for a branch of the Italian restaurant at 98 Rivington St. Although the applicants sought later hours, the committee agreed to a 2 a.m. closing time on weekends.
Finally, the committee gave approval to hotel magnate Ian Schrager for his nightlife multiplex at 215 Chrystie St. The new Public Hotel, built on the former garden of an affordable housing complex, will boast 11 liquor permits. Most of the details were worked out between the Schrager team and community board members last month. But the applicants returned with several alterations in the agreement meant to give them more flexibility.
217 Eldridge St. Photo via LoopNet.
Acclaimed sushi chef David Bouhadana is aiming to open a new spot at 217 Eldridge St., the former home of shuttered Italian spot Apizz.
According to documents filed with Community Board 3, he and Derek Feldman will be going for a full liquor permit in the 1200 square foot space near Stanton Street. Bouhadana has been sushi chef at many places, including Morimoto, Sushi Uo (on Rivington Street), Hatsuhana and 15 East. In October of last year, he departed Sushi Dojo, the much-loved 1st Avenue restaurant, after the health department temporarily closed the business. Bouhadana went public with an indictment of the city health guidelines, which he said failed to take into account the special needs of sushi chefs.
The corporate name on the application is Nishiwaki LLC. Elsewhere in the application, the restaurant is referred to as Sushi Bouhadana. The restaurant would have 39 seats. The owners are requesting a 2 a.m. closing time. Community Board 3’s liquor licensing committee meets May 16, 6:30 p.m., at 10 Stanton St.
The former Apizz space has been advertised online, with a “4 a.m. liquor license” at a rate of $7500 per month.
The Wu Room, a new club in the basement of the Wyndham Garden Chinatown, is starting to attract some attention. The Times’ T Magazine is featuring a slide show from a fashionable art/dance party in the space. Later this month, the operators will go before Community Board 3 with their liquor license application.
According to documents filed with CB3, the Wu Room is run by Kenny Kaufield (The Grayson, 16 1st Avenue) and Li Juan Gu, managing partner of the Lam Group. Proposed hours are 7 a.m.-midnight in the cellar space and 7 a.m.-2 a.m. on a patio that faces Hester Street. The application suggests the bar inside the hotel lobby is also part of their operation.
The Wyndham Garden Chinatown is located at 93 Bowery. The community board’s liquor licensing committee meets March 14.
Letter via Community Board 3 liquor license application.
There are a few items of interest on the agenda for Community Board 3’s February liquor permit meeting.
As EV Grieve noted yesterday, James Morrissey of the Late Late on East Houston St. and Gerard McNamee of Webster Hall will pitch plans for a new place called “The Honey Fitz” at 129 St. Mark’s Place (Avenue A). The space would be created by combining Nino’s Pizza (closed since October due to a gas leak) and the former Hop Devil Grill.
The application includes several letters of support from local residents. But notably there are also testimonials from officials in the Ninth Precinct and the fire department’s Engine Company 33.
The letter from Lieut. Patrick Ferguson, who heads special operations at the Ninth Precinct, is dated July 24 of last year. It serves as a general recommendation for McNamee, Webster Hall’s director of operations. “Mr. McNamee,” wrote Ferguson, “is a true professional and runs Webster Hall in a professional manner. He has constantly maintained an excellent working relationship with the Ninth Precinct and with the community for the past eight years.”
In an undated letter, Captain Timothy McGuiness of the FDNY writes, “One business that is operated by a no-nonsense professional is Webster Hall… run by Gerard McNamee… Gerard is respectful and responsible and is eager to help us achieve our goal whether it be anything from a medical call or an investigation of routine alarm.”
It might not be unheard of — but written endorsements of nightlife operators from the local police and fire departments are at least somewhat unusual. Here’s the full application if you’d like to have a look.
49 Monroe St., the site of a new restaurant from the Forgtmenot team.
In the past year or two, the Lower East Side’s robust nightlife scene has gradually drifted down below Canal Street. At last night’s meeting of Community Board 3’s State Liquor Authority (SLA) Committee, residents showed up to voice concerns about what they see as a threat to one of the last uncharted areas in all of Manhattan.
The panel ultimately approved a proposal from the Forgtmenot/Kiki’s team to open up a new Southern European establishment at 49 Monroe St. (near Market Street). The fact that these two Division Street spots are seen as community-oriented and unusually responsive to neighbors pushed the application over the top. But there was still a spirited conversation of the potential impact in the Two Bridges neighborhood.
The restaurant will cover the first floor, plus the mezzanine, and include 22 tables and a u-shaped, 40-foot bar. Last night’s presentation was led by co-owner Paul Sierros, who said the building would be fully soundproofed. The team received key support from Emma Culbert, head of the SPaCE Block Association. She lives on Division Street, where Forgtmenot opened in 2012 and Kiki’s debuted last year. Speaking of the owners, Culbert said. “They have been nothing but accommodating.” The staff, she said, is incredibly diligent about keeping noise to a minimum and dealing with late night crowds.
Pamela Yeh of the Orchard Street Block Association also acknowledged that the existing businesses are run responsibly. But she challenged representations about the building’s certificate of occupancy allowing 110 people; (CB3’s district manager said her research found Sierros’ plan is legal.)
Another local resident, a man who lives at 41 Monroe St., said he welcomed the new venue because the area is dangerous after dark and the block would benefit from a nighttime business. But others argued that the location, across from the Coleman Skatepark and a recreational area, is an inappropriate spot for a restaurant serving liquor. A few people mentioned the sceney bar, Mr. Fong’s, which opened last summer and began attracting large crowds almost from the start. Locals, some of them residents of nearby Knickerbocker Village, said they were speaking for Chinese neighbors and seniors who fear going public with their concerns. “Do not mistake silence for support,” one speaker asserted. “The area is diverse, low-income, working class… This is not the kind of community where people need a place to get drunk at 1 a.m.”
Sierros said people waiting for tables would not congregate outside. He also pointed out that the block is not exactly tranquil. One of the reasons he’s soundproofing the building is that the train rumbles across the Manhattan Bridge every two minutes. At the request of the committee, he agreed to close on weekends by 1 a.m. (the application proposed a 1:30 a.m. closing time.
A new plan for the old Winnie’s space (104 Bayard St.)
The former Winnie’s space at 104 Bayard St.
Longtime Chinatown residents came out last night to protest a plan from the team behind the popular Orchard Street cafe, Dudley’s, to open a second restaurant on Bayard Street. While the owners said they were trying to honor the previous establishment, Chinatown mainstay Winnie’s, locals called their plan an insult.
The partners applying for a full bar (and a 4 a.m. closing time) were listed as: Mateusz Lilpop, Ben dos Remedios and Gerardo and William Davidson. Winnie’s, known for its karaoke and very diverse crowd, was forced to close after 28 years when the owner was unable to negotiate a new lease with her landlord. The new team said they wanted to keep the old name and the karaoke as an homage to the original spot, while adding an innovative menu; the chef from El Rey on Stanton Street has been hired to run the kitchen.
But many of last night’s speakers were unimpressed. One lifelong resident of Mulberry Street said he’s tired of the late night crowds coming in from other neighborhoods, of the taxis lined up, of the public urination, etc. Others said they were offended by the use of Winnie’s name. Community Board 3 member Karlin Chan submitted a letter from Winnie, who was sitting in the audience. “A 4 a.m. karaoke bar should set off alarm bells for everyone,” he argued. “This concept does not fit the culture of the neighborhood. You can’t just take someone else’s brand.” Another speaker said, “We don’t need another hipster bar in Chinatown… We don’t need privileged and entitled people exploiting our neighborhood.”
The applicants, however, received an important vote of confidence from Andrew Chase, co-owner of Orchard Street’s Cafe Katja (Chase is a public member of the SLA Committee). He said Dudley’s has a “very subdued clientele” and that the owners do a good job of handling crowds. “I feel they are sensitive to the neighbors,” said Chase.
In the end, committee member Carol Kostik acknowledged the concerns local residents expressed about gentrification. But she added, “I’m not sure we’re the arbiters of ethnic purity” in the neighborhood. The team agreed to drop the “Winnie’s” name, to cut back their weekend closing time to 2 a.m. and to serve a full food menu during all operating hours.
There was more news from the committee last night. Jerome Barnas won approval for his new cafe at 26 Canal St. (at Rutgers Street). The proposal was supported by the SPaCE Block Association. The cafe will open at 7 a.m. daily, offering coffee and an all-day menu. Closing time on weekends is 1 a.m.
104 Bayard St.
Earlier this year, Winnie’s, the popular neighborhood dive at 104 Bayard St., closed its doors after almost 30 years in business. Now Community Board 3’s January meeting agendas show a a possible new venture headed for the Chinatown space.
Among the applicants listed for a new “Winnie’s Restaurant” is Ben dos Remedios of Dudley’s, the popular Aussie-inspired cafe on Orchard Street. The team is requesting full liquor service with hours of operation from 10 a.m.-4 a.m. There would be 25 seats and karaoke would be part of the mix (Winnie’s was, of course a favorite karaoke spot).
The sample menu includes breakfast service, featuring dishes such as: smoked sable and soft egg scramble, chia seed pudding and slow smoked pork and cashew grits. The dinner menu includes something called a Baja Bucket (shrimp, lobster, carne asada, chicken) for $32, braised goat and a carnitas platter.
Karlin Chan, a Community Board 3 member and longtime Chinatown activist, tells us he’ll be opposing the application. In the past, he has battled against applicants seeking to open new bars and restaurants in the neighborhood, arguing that Chinatown is becoming too nightlife-centric.