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State Liquor Authority Grants Comfort Diner 4 a.m. Liquor License

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Comfort Diner, 399 Grand St.
Comfort Diner, 399 Grand St.

The Comfort Diner on Grand Street may very well be serving alcohol by the end of the week. After Community Board 3 balked during the summer, owner Ira Freehof went to the State Liquor Authority yesterday, which granted him the right to operate a full bar in the new establishment.  Last night, Freehof told us he’s stocking liquor, wine and beer during the next couple of days and should be ready to go by the weekend.

The SPaCE block association objected to the late night hours the Comfort Diner had been proposing, as well as plans to serve alcohol after 10 p.m. in the restaurant’s outdoor areas.  CB3 backed up the group, rejecting the permit in September because Freehof did not agree to several operating restrictions. Yesterday, District Manager Susan Stetzer testified against the application on behalf of the board.  Freehof, however, benefited from the support of his new landlord, the Seward Park Cooperative. The co-op’s general manager, Frank Durant, offered assurances that the business would not become a nuisance to neighbors.  Some local residents also showed up at the hearing to voice their support.

The State Liquor Authority gave Freehof permission to serve until 4 a.m. He’ll be able to offer customers alcoholic drinks outside until midnight on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends.  But the commissioners required the restaurant to close all windows at 10 p.m., something Freehof had been resisting. He had wanted to serve outside until 2 a.m.  SPaCE leader Emma Culbert had this to say last night about the SLA’s ruling:

In the end, the SLA chose to grant a compromise between CB3, SPaCE and Comfort Diner, which weighed heavily on Comfort Diner’s side. SPaCE’s stance was never one of not wanting Comfort Diner to have the ability to gain a liquor license. Our requested stipulations were in line with our continued effort to preserve our cherished corner of Manhattan from befalling the same fate as Hell’s Square. Hopefully, Mr. Freehof heeds the concerns of his newfound neighbors and respects the community in which he has been granted generous rights.

Comfort Diner opened on a limited basis last month. Freehof told us he’s on target to debut breakfast service next Monday.  For now, the plan is to open at 7 a.m. (8 a.m. on weekends) and close at 11 p.m., maybe a little later on weekends if there’s enough business to justify it.  Comfort Diner replaces Noah’s Ark Deli. Freehof has operated another location of the Comfort Diner in Midtown for 18 years.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. [Ed please feel free to edit]
    Congrats Ira and welcome to the neighborhood! And KUDOS to Chairman Rosen, a smart man and a fair judge. The whole thing was incredibly silly since all sides wanted Comfort Diner in this location and want it to succeed. Self-appointed SPaCE – backed for some obscure reason (personal friendships?) by CB3 – made this about who’s in power to tell who what to do, and fortunately for our neighborhood common sense prevailed.

    Note that the requirement to close the windows at 10 pm doesn’t make much sense since customers are allowed to sit and be served alcohol OUTSIDE until midnight / 1 am, but I guess the Gods of Compromise had to have their offering. All is well that ends well, glad to have Comfort Diner in our ‘hood.

  2. @Go IraGo – What ‘neighborhood common sense’? Are you serious? Do you really believe that it’s a good thing that the neighborhood will before long become another Hell Square by allowing 4AM closings like the one for ‘Comfort Bar’?

    Let’s be real here- Comfort Diner in Midtown closes at 10 PM. So why does it need to close at 4AM on the LES? Perhaps because it will wind up (pretty soon) being more of a bar than a diner!

  3. Thank you to Susan Stetzer and CB3 for standing up for people not commerce. Comfort Diner has chosen a very unneighborly way to enter our area. BTW, If what they intended to blare onto the street after 10 PM is the muzak they are now playing loudly inside, consider this a small victory.

  4. ABetterLES, this is basic English grammar – let me help you – “fortunately for our neighborhood, COMMA, common sense prevailed.” Grammar aside, did you even see where the bar is? ALL THE WAY TO THE BACK. Do you know who the operators are? They’ve run the same-name diner in four different locations, none of which evolved into an evil bar. And they’ve had over 10 years, maybe 20, of liquor licenses, with a pristine record. Plus don’t forget that Seward Park coop is Comfort Diner’s landlord, i.e., can make the diner’s life miserable if shareholders complain. Inhale, exhale. Let’s all calm down, welcome Ira, and enjoy having a reasonably priced, beautifully designed, great food alternative in our under-served neighborhood.

  5. @ABetterLES – for the record, whenever I post something, I use my actual name as I’m doing now. None of the earlier posts were made by me or at my request. Now let me share my thoughts regarding the 4 am closing –

    First and foremost, I have no plans to stay open until 4 am in the near future. I have had SEVERAL neighborhood residents ask me during construction and since we’ve been open if we plan on being open 24 hours. Doing so in NYC is not at all unusual for a diner. It’s something that we MAY opt to do in the future. If and when that happens, I wanted to have the opportunity to offer all that we can at all hours that we can. I saw no reason to have to tell customers that they couldn’t have a drink at 1 am, 2 am or 4 am if we’re open to the public for food. We are now and always will be a food first establishment. That being said, there is nothing wrong with having a beer, glass of wine or cocktail with your meal just because it happens to be after midnight. I also reject the notion that any establishment that happens to serve alcohol past midnight or 1 am MUST be a rowdy, crazy place and awful for the neighborhood.

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