Notes from CB3: The DL, Sweet Chick, and Whynot Cafe Denied
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LES Dwellers Founder Diem Boyd at left
Here are some notes from last night’s marathon Community Board 3 meeting…
Regarding suspension of the LES Dwellers
The elephant in the room last night was the recent three-month suspension of the LES Dwellers by the hand of CB3. Chair Gigi Li referenced the reasoning behind the action, namely that the block association had aggressively dealt with an applicant outside its jurisdiction. Tone between the group and the board remained contentious throughout the evening, culminating in another altercation with the public. Member Ariel Palitz called out one of the Dwellers who was filming as a “dog on a leash” who shows up each meeting and “looks at me like he hasn’t taken his meds.” This outburst angered many in the room including Li herself.
For its part, though, the Dwellers maintained the position that the suspension is a violation of their right to free speech under the Constitution.
Sweet Chick, 178 Ludlow Street (Full Liquor)
This space, of course, was home to Max Fish for more than two decades. As previously reported, the owner of chicken-and-waffles joint Sweet Chick wanted to open his second outpost here. The application considered was a sale of assets from the Fish. Residents of the 100-year-old tenement were ultimately worried that a fried food establishment in a “porous” building would negatively impact quality of life. Any restaurant would, so they said. Other opposition from the suspended Dwellers included the proximity to a school and number of licenses already on that block. Ultimately, Gigi Li coaxed the committee to deny the sale of assets.
Whynot Coffee, 175 Orchard Street (Full Liquor)
At issue here was whether to OP a non-licensed space (previously Daha Vintage). Principal Emil Stefkov argued that only wine and cocktails would be served, and that other liquor drinks were not part of the business model. Furthermore, the art gallery concept, spurred by the nearby gallery district, would allegedly fetch 50% of the business revenue. The applicant, who runs a Whynot location over on Christopher Street, used experience as a pillar of his argument. That and his responsibilities at the Olio Restaurant in the West Village.
Opposition turned out, noting that all four corners of Stanton and Orchard are licensed and this additional watering hole would further overburden. Ultimately, his brief industry experience, coupled with the address residing in a saturated area, netted a denial. There was some talk, however, about switching to a wine and beer license. Since this particular application was for OP, they now need to resubmit at a later date if interested in that change.
The DL, 95 Delancey Street (Full Liquor renewal)
This vote was sort of a moot point considered the SLA already approved a renewal for The DL before CB3 heard the case in September. The full board voted last month to overturn the outright subcommittee denial to allow for more dialogue with the community. A month later, the panel took the identical position that it wasn’t happy about the club breaking its agreed-upon stipulations. Paul Seres even admitted as much, and agreed to make concessions like closing windows early and eliminating DJs on the ground level (which already happened). In the end, the board decided to uphold the previous resolution. Yet because they couldn’t technically deny the application, it’s on file that CB3 “does not approve.” The DL’s history of evading its stipulations is now “memorialized.”
Spiegel, 26 First Avenue (wine and beer)
Principal Noah Shalem is poised to purchase assets from the newish corner bodega for his Spiegel concept. It’ll be a full-service Moroccan/Israeli joint that features a menu of Kosher meats and fish. This application was one of the few positive moments in a night chock full of denials. The board voted to approve the license.
The Carolinas, 125 Rivington Street (Full Liquor)
This Rivington retail location has trouble holding down an occupant. For the last few years, it’s been an on-again-off-again Sebago outpost. Mustpaha Hadj-Arab, principal for the southern-style spot, is looking to remove his license from the shuttered Red Bench and reinstate here on the Lower East Side. However, he did not attend and instead sent the general manager who has an ownership interest. We learned that a “celebrity chef” will hold court in the kitchen, but that the identity is a secret. Also, that $1.5 million is need to remodel the space.
Enter the LES Dwellers. It is with this applicant that the organization jumped into hot water. Diem Boyd and company made contact with the Red Bench dude, and decided to ask them to withdraw from this month’s meeting. That’s not in their jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the Carolinas did in fact withdraw and were told to return with the principal.
Brownstone Lounge and Grill, 240 East Fourth Street (Full Liquor)
This address is quite notorious among the locals thanks to China 1 and its successor Affaire. The application was for a sale of assets to a “restaurant” with an inexperienced crew of investors; the principal is an IT business manager in Harlem and none of the investors have any track record in the industry. Neighbors rightly feared more of the same from this space, and worried that it would turn into a sports bar that would host private parties in the basement. The applicants were urged to withdraw to reconsider gathering a more experienced team and to conduct more outreach.
OTHER NOTES: JMDR, the mysterious entity hoping to take over the Motor City Bar space, withdrew its application until next month.