Welcome to First Word, wherein Eater and its correspondents sit for hours at steamy community board meetings to bring back the first word of new establishments and what they're up to. Your reports from the field always encouraged to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last night, Community Board 2 members, restaurant owners, a slew of attorneys and concerned citizens met in an NYU classroom to hash it out over area businesses' applications for State Liquor Authority licensing. The two items on the agenda that received the most time were the application from Robert Werhane for his new seafood joint and the liquor license renewal from pseudo-restaurant Midnight Cafe. The executive committee meets later today to rule on the issues presented yesterday, with the next full Board meeting postponed until the third Thursday in September.
1) Robert Werhane (of Dell' Anima, Johnny Utah's, and L'Artusi) and business partner Josh Morgan appeared in front of the Board to discuss their application for a liquor license for a new venture at 308-310 Bleecker. The space is envisioned as a "casual dining fish house with an emphasis on small bites." The "Chesapeake Bay inspired" menu will be seasonal, changing four times a year. Concerns were raised over the space's backyard area, which is not DOB approved. Werhane assured the Board that two of the walls were being removed in order to alter the enclosed atrium so that it complied with fire safety regulations. This, of course, led to concerns over sound containment.
Werhane offered to open outdoor space midnight on weekdays, until 1 a.m. on weekends. He expressed concern over agreeing to any conditions now that would cripple his business later, but he offered to make himself available at any time to field issues or complaints.
2) Bowery Time LLC, the owners of King's Cross, Antik, agreed to break up their 356 Bowery space in to two separate licenses, keeping King's Cross as a bar and turning Antik into a private event space (this following a prolonged period of back-and-forth with CB members). The owners argued that they were relinquishing a big money maker by making the upstairs a private space in order to attempt to resolve past issues with the Board.
3) Fabio Granato, co-owner of Italian restaurant Seraphina, discussed his new venture: a neighborhood restaurant that will be located on the first two floors of the building at 7 Ninth Avenue, formerly Inn LW12. Granato said that the restaurant would have a simple, Italian menu that includes pastries in the morning and pizza throughout the day. To address noise complaints received by the former tenant, the space will be removing the second floor bar, while the downstairs one will remain. Granato expressed his desire to be open 24 hours a day, which was met with trepidation; if this was not an option, he suggested that he be allowed to operate until 4 am. The CB decided to add stipulations that the third and fourth floors of the building were not to be used for any purpose.
4) Restaurateur Jason Hennings discussed the license renewal for his Diablo Royale, his "festive Mexican restaurant and tavern" located at 189 West 10th Street. One particularly irate resident appeared before the Board, claiming that "the noise from this place has unravelled my physical and mental health", twice dissolving in to tears over the "outrageous" sound level. "[The disruption] has unhinged me to the point that it has made me crazy...I'm really losing it; my psychiatrist is very upset", she said. An apologetic Mr. Hennings, who had already made significant concessions in an attempt to address past concerns, offered to close the doors opening on to the street earlier and to install soundproof glass in affected neighbors' apartments.
5) The most lively portion of the evening occurred when the Singh brothers, co-owners of 218 Lounge/Midnight Cafe at 218 Lafayette Street (formerly nightclub/mare The Falls) appeared before the Board to discuss their license renewal. The residents of the Lafayette and Crosby area came out in droves, and they brought along an attorney. Not only were the history of noise complaints raised, but they were also accused of pulling a bait and switch since they had initially applied to CB 2 for a wine and beer license, only to apply to the SLA Committee for a full liquor license the same week. They had also told the Board they would be operating primarily as a restaurant with a full menu that would close at 2am on weekends. Residents pointed to photos of the club's snaking lines, velvet rope and bouncers, as well as the absence of a posted menu.
The owners then backpeddled, claiming they had stopped the DJ parties and live music. Community members responded with photos of recent fliers advertising just such events. The Crosby Street Block Association argued that the landlord was trying to evict them for operating a nightclub which was not specified in their lease, following a cease and desist order they were given on July 4th. A representative from the Councilman's office spoke, recommending a denial of any license for the establishment, given their failure to notify CB 2 of the full license they received after and for "materially misrepresented the nature of their establishment".
6) Downtown Restaurant Group appeared before the board to discuss problems at Griffin, the lounge at 50 Gansevoort Street in the space that formerly housed PM. Because of the extensive complaints PM received, board and community members raised concerns over noise levels, crowds, and urination on neighboring stoops. These were not assuaged when the partner in attendance informed the board the venue had a Cabaret license pending. While the representative claimed they had tried to reach out to community members, the lone neighbor who showed up claimed not only that the noise had kept her up at all hours of the night, but that the disturbances had ruined her marriage. CB 2 asked that the lounge attempt to better connect with neighbors.
7) The co-owners and chef of the Actor's Playhouse at 100A Seventh Avenue applied for a full liquor license. They were heard following a layover after they failed to be adequately prepared at a previous meeting. They assured the Board they were not trying to turn the space in to a club, and wanted it to only include "tables, chairs, food, beverages, and good theatre". They told board members that comics performed downstairs in the cellar, and could not be heard by neighbors. A community member spoke out in support of the theatre, claiming that the Village needed to accommodate the arts. The Board seemed responsive, and no objections were voiced.
8) The owner of East Village Bistro Virage (on Second Avenue at 7th) appeared before the Board to discuss his application for a license for a new venture located at 581 Hudson Street (in the shuttered Valdino West space). The restaurant will be called Moz and will feature a Mediterranean style menu, similar to what is offered at its sister restaurant. The owner says that Virage has been in operation for six years, and has received no noise complaints or had any other problems.
9) Puar LLC applied to alter the downstairs bar at the newly opened Entwine (765 Washington Street) to add seats to what is now a service bar. They also asked to increase their weekday hours to match their weekend operations, so that they can stay in operation until 2 am rather than closing at midnight. The CB suggested they come back in six months (with supportive neighbors in tow) to discuss the change in operating hours.