252 Broome St.
It’s almost the end of the summer, which means food writers are beginning to look forward to fall restaurant arrivals. In the the New York Times, there’s a preview of Devon, a neighborhood spot at 252 Broome St. from Oliver Zabar.
This past April, Oliver and his dad, Eli, went before Community Board 3, asking for a liquor permit in the former Lucky Bee/Jin Sushi space. In part due to the Zabar’s family’s long history in the food business, the board signed off on the application.
Today’s story in the Times carries the headline: “Out from Under the Family Name.” Oliver, 27, says the Lower East Side restaurant is his baby. Devon, scheduled to open in October, is described as a casual restaurant and cocktail bar with vaguely French “elevated bar food.” Devon is named after Oliver’s mom. There will be an adjoining bakery, supplying the restaurant with breads.
You can find Devon’s Instagram feed here.
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.
Rupert Noffs and Matty Bennett of the Lucky Bee. Photo from the restaurant’s Instagram.
After only a year-and-a-half in business, The Lucky Bee is closing.
Co-owner Rupert Noffs tells us that he and partner Matty Bennett made the decision to shutter their Southeast Asian restaurant at 252 Broome St. because, “We simply can’t afford the rent.” Noffs said they plan to operate for as “long as possible,” adding, “I guess this is our Closing Down Sale!”
He said the search has begun for another location. “We have some strong interest and people who really believe in us and what we do,” said Noffs. “All we ever wanted to do was give New Yorkers delicious, seasonal Southeast Food and incredible cocktails in a fun setting and we will continue with that vision.”
Bennett, formerly of the Fat Radish, won praise for his farm-to-table version of Thai Street food, and the restaurant’s hot pink decor and festive atmosphere attracted early attention to the 50 seat restaurant.
It was a tumultuous, if short, run on the Lower East Side. The Lucky Bee opened in January 2016 in the former home of Jin Sushi, a longtime neighborhood restaurant. During the first three months, Bennett served a limited menu because Con Ed and the Fire Department had not cleared the business to use cooking gas.
Then in June of this year, Noffs and Bennett were evicted for non-payment of rent and the restaurant was closed down for several days. Property owners Michael Forrest and Samy Mahfar allowed them to reopen while tenant and landlords worked out a payment plan. In an interview yesterday, Forrest said, “While we were trying to work out a rent reduction, it became apparent that the restaurant could not pay even the minimum amount that (the owners) said they could handle.” The lease signed by Noffs and Bennett required them to pay $21,000/month, which included property taxes. “We were willing to negotiate,” said Forrest. “We wanted to see them succeed.”
The Lucky Bee will be charging happy hour prices on all drinks until they close. A closing date has not been determined.
UPDATED 12:40 p.m. After this story was published, Rupert Noffs emailed us, reacting to Forrest’s comments regarding the Broome Street lease situation. According to Noffs, the property owners were unwilling to negotiate, refused to budge on the rent and demanded another $60,000 in additional security. Noffs said, “We simply could not run our business, think of creative new ideas, recipes and train new staff with these guys on our backs sending eviction notices – without a sealed envelope – once a month.”
This story will be updated if Forrest has any more to add on the topic.
Inside The Lucky Bee. Image from the restaurant’s social media channels.
The Lucky Bee, a new South Asian restaurant at 252 Broome St. (at Ludlow Street), will open on January 21, a week from Thursday. The announcement was made by partners Rupert Noffs and Matty Bennett yesterday.
Bennett was most recently in the kitchen at the Fat Radish on Orchard Street. In the new spot, he’s bringing a “farm-to-table approach to Thai street food.” Con Ed hasn’t turned on the gas just yet, but the team is not waiting around for that to happen. See below for an opening menu that will offer guests a good taste of the full “Lucky Bee” experience. Large bowls include red curry of king prawns with apple eggplant, roasted bell pepper and Thai basil. Among the smaller plates are: oysters with Nahm Jim Chili sauce, tuna tartare and a green papaya salad. There’s a full bar with cocktails made from honey. $1 from each drink goes to the New York City Beekeepers Association.
The restaurant opens on the 21st at 5:30 p.m.