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Happening Tonight: Zabar Family Pitches Broome Street Restaurant/Bar (Updated)

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252 Broome St.
252 Broome St.

When Community Board 3 meets tonight to go over liquor license applications, one of the more interesting proposals under discussion will be for a restaurant/bar from Eli Zabar and his son, Oliver, in the old Lucky Bee space on Broome Street.

Eli Zabar, who has run restaurants on the Upper East Side for many years, has his eye on 252 Broome St., between Ludlow and Orchard streets. As you might recall, Lucky Bee, the Southeast Asian restaurant, shuttered in this spot last fall after just a year-and-a-half in business.

There’s a personal appeal from Oliver Zabar taped to the facade, along with a petition seeking local support. It reads, in part:

As a resident of the neighborhood I believe a comfortable, friendly, all day cafe/restaurant will be a positive addition to our daily lives here. For 45 years my family has been operating food stores, restaurants and cafes on the Upper East Side. Each of our locations has become, over time, an asset to the neighborhood it is in. We contribute stability, hospitality and a sense of place in a city growing more and more anonymous every day… I believe that this venture will be a positive addition to the neighborhood and I commit to being a good neighbor.

The concept was featured in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) earlier this month. Eli Zabar opeerates more than 10 restaurants uptown (the grocery store is operated by another branch of the family). While Eli and Oliver say they’re “doing something appropriate for the neighborhood,” a restaurant industry consultant cautioned them about charging Upper East Side prices on the Lower East Side. “If he thinks he’s going to sell a $14 tuna-fish sandwich, that’s not going to happen,” Arlene Spiegel told the Journal.

The Zabar clan has already faced some challenges in their quest for downtown expansion. Last year, Community Board 3 shot down a proposal for a restaurant at 54 Mulberry St. Local residents in Chinatown opposed the application, expressing concerns about gentrification and congestion. Unlike the Broome Street space, however, the Chinatown location was not previously licensed. It is often easier to win community board and State Liquor Authority approval in a space that has a history of liquor sales.

Michael Forrest, co-owner of 252 Broome St., told us this morning he took a lot of care in selecting the new commercial tenant. The hours of operation are similar to the previous occupant of the restaurant space. “I am confident Eli’s Night Shift will operate in a way that contributes to the Broome corridor and compliments surrounding uses,”  said Forrest, who is board president of the Lower East Side Partnership. “I also know that the Zabar family has a proven track record of success in their restaurant operations.”

“At the end of the day,” he added, “this is exactly the type of license holder we want in our community, a financially stable operator who will have a reputable restaurant operation.”

The Lower East Side venue would have 52 seats, and remain open on the weekends until 2 a.m. A sample menu filed with CB3 features, focaccia pizzas, a charcuterie board, burgers, lamb ribs, chicken tacos and a selection of salads. The drink menu was not included in the online application.

CB3’s State Liquor Authority Committee meets tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Public Hotel, 215 Chrystie St.

UPDATE 4/17 The application was approved by the committee, with a 2 a.m. closing time Thursday-Saturday and 1 a.m. the rest of the week. The full board will vote whether to accept the committee’s recommendation April 24.



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