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Kosher Cafe Wins Bid for Grand Street Space

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Four contenders were seeking leases at 357-359 Grand Street.
Four contenders were seeking leases at 357-359 Grand St.

A full-service kosher cafe backed by local businessman Nathan Sklar has won its bid to take over 357-359 Grand St., the former home of kosher pizzeria Shalom Chai.

Sklar’s winning proposal, which he called “a last hurrah” for kosher dining to the LES, was one of four competing applications presented to the board of Seward Park Co-op in August and voted on this week. The co-op owns the one-story commercial strip running from Essex Street to Clinton Street, from which it has evicted two kosher eateries in the last year: Shalom Chai in June and Noah’s Ark Deli last fall.

The other three options the board considered included a Spanish restaurant by Alex Raij and Eder Montero, a noted husband-and-wife chef team who own and operate three other successful restaurants and also live on Grand Street. Ned Baldwin, of East Village restaurant Prune, proposed a third restaurant. The fourth applicant was The Pickle Guys, whose owners were seeking to relocate their well-known Essex Street store around the corner into bigger space.

Board member Kate Nammacher declined comment on the board’s decision.

“Due to the sensitive and proprietary nature of commercial leasing and to protect all parties involved, we intend to wait until a contract is signed before we make any announcements,” she wrote in an email.

Sklar, a lifelong Seward Park Co-op resident and executive director of Comprehensive Companies, will be making his first foray into the restaurant business, in partnership with a chef who lives nearby, in the East River Co-op.

“Our concept is a cafe where everyone can eat,” Sklar told The Lo-Down earlier this month.

Sklar proposed a menu centered on fish and vegetables, including vegan and gluten-free options, salads, pizza and sushi. The restaurant, which is very tentatively titled Grand and Essex Cafe, will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. He plans to have outdoor seating on the sidewalk in front, as well as in a small garden area in the rear. Catering, takeout and delivery options are all in the plan, along with a full bar license. The restaurant would close an hour or two before sunset on Fridays and reopen shortly after sunset on Saturdays in observation of the Sabbath, he said.

Some members of the Lower East Side’s Jewish community actively campaigned for the kosher proposal via letters to board members and a petition.

The courtyard behind 357-359 Grand St.
The courtyard behind 357-359 Grand St. has a small area for outdoor seating.
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  1. Too bad. We could have had an outpost of not one, but two celebrated NY chefs. Instead, we get the “first foray into the restaurant business, in partnership with a chef who lives nearby.” So, it’ll close in less than a year once they realize that despite the clamoring of a vocal minority, there’s not a huge demand from the neighborhood at large (or, those who frequent restaurants regularly) for a kosher restaurant.

  2. Will this space really see any rehabilitation or remain vacant? Is the award of the lease to a member of the coop merely a problem with affinity, which we saw most vividly in how Bernie Madoff did his business? Affinity is often mistaken for trust, and Mr. Madoff illustrated how damaging is a judgment based upon affinity rather than demonstrable competence. Although this article reports that the hoped-for restaurant will be a Kosher restaurant, this deal does not seem to be kosher.

  3. Those people that cannot tolerate a KOSHER restaurant in our neighborhood, may have an affinity for living in a restricted neighborhood. You are welcome to move there. This will help you avoid the great imposition of having to tolerate other ethnic cultures rights and needs. Vielen Dank für Ihr Verständnis.

  4. I haven’t met anybody who objects to having a kosher restaurant in our neighborhood. I personally think it would be wonderful to have a good kosher restaurant. I really enjoyed having Noah’s Ark around before it went downhill.

    But I join many other people in questioning the business judgment of the Seward board members who chose a prospective tenant with zero experience in the restaurant industry (with no clear plan for how they will endure where two other kosher establishments recently had to be evicted after accruing massive rent arrears), when there were three other prospective tenants with extensive track records in the businesses they proposed to locate in this space, two of which would likely draw people from outside the neighborhood to our commercial strip, further increasing the value of our other commercial spaces.

    That said, what’s done is done. Mr. Sklar appears to be a successful businessman and a nice guy (and I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that there was a good rationale for his other company’s losing lawsuit against the co-op in 2008, given how crappy Seward’s management was at that time and that the co-op board still rented his company additional space a couple years later). I wish Mr. Sklar great success in his foray into the restaurant industry and look forward to eating there when it opens.

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