CB3 Approves Hotel Indigo and Wassail, Lambasts Hair of the Dog

Posted on: August 19th, 2014 at 5:36 am by

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Entrance of Orchard Hell Building (Hotel Indigo)

It might be the dog days of summer, but at the SLA subcommittee meeting last night for Community Board 3, it was still a packed house. Some twenty applicants vied for license approvals, eight (!) of which reside in Hell Square alone. Herewith, a quick and dirty recollection from our brief three-hour stint.

Wassail, 162 Orchard Street

This is the vegetarian cider spot we told you about a couple weeks ago, helmed by the Queens Kickshaw crew from Astoria. The applicants purchased business assets from predecessor Todd’s Mill, which closed two months ago. The husband-wife team proclaims the concept as the first cider-focused restaurant in the five boroughs. Met with open arms by the LES Dwellers and the community for being transparent about the business plan and willing to work with and become part of the neighborhood. Apparently, the full liquor is needed for certain drinks only (and for higher ABV), as the theme of the bar is all things cider (draft and by the bottle).

Their argument for public benefit – since 162 Orchard is in a saturated area – was that cider brands offered are local, and that it benefits New York State agriculture. Also, there is the nostalgic selling point of bringing apples back to Orchard. CB3 approved the application without incident.

Bonhomie LLC, 359 Grand Street

Restaurateurs Alex Raij and Eder Montero are taking over the Shalom Chai Pizzeria, supplanting the last Kosher business in Seward Park. The duo are seasoned operators with three other Spanish-style eateries. The endeavor at 359 Grand will fall in line. It was pitched as a full restaurant, and there seemed little reason to believe otherwise. Indoor seating would be under sixty-four seats; garden seating will be addressed at a later date. Raij and Montero worked with the SPaCE block association to forge closing times of 12am on weekdays, and 1am weekends. The panel unanimously approved.

Hair of the Dog, 168 Orchard Street

Hair of the Dog is a monster nuisance for nearly everyone in the area, no two ways about it. And last night ownership sought blessings for a renewal. A laundry list of complaints to CB3, 311, and neighborhood blogs were unearthed to show the utter lack of respect this bar has for its surroundings. Residents are fed up with the noise, long lines out front, open facade seemingly at all hours, etc; even other businesses on the block claim that Hair of the Dog is “making them all look bad.” Top brass had nothing to say to the community that hates it.

Much of the debate was moot, though, since the State Liquor Authority will most likely rubber stamp the application. So CB3 chose to fully deny the renewal and add stipulations to be incorporated into the new license. Some of the detail memorialized includes the illegal drink pricing (can’t be less than half price), sound engineer for tests in nearby buildings, and closing the facade during all televised events.

Hotel Indigo, 180 Orchard Street

The Orchard Hell Building is all grown up and ready to shake its decade-old nickname. Reps from BCRE, International Hotel Group, and Gerber Group were in attendance. Their application was definitely well-rounded and accepted. Even the LES Dwellers – which noted the overall neighborhood problems during construction – acknowledged that “we can’t undo what’s already done,” but that the hotel operators have conducted great community outreach. Together they nailed down a more favorable nightlife setup.

Some of the hotel concessions included moving the lobby to the fourteenth floor and eliminating the food and drinking component from the second floor altogether. Plans call for a lobby bar and dining area on the fourteenth floor, as well as a larger 195-seat restaurant on fifteen. Attached to fifteen are two terraces – the East with capacity of 25 and the West with a pool (closes at 5pm) and space for 140.

The one worrisome outlier, though, is the ground floor retail. Apparently BCRE sold the rights to the four-store space, and there’s nothing out there that says more bars couldn’t open here.

Gatsby, 163 Orchard Street

This applicant was in stark contrast to the Hotel Indigo. Apparently named Gatsby, the hotel is the pet project of Nico Moinian. Plans are to open bars on the second floor and rooftop. He didn’t come to the meeting prepared, though, which angered an already frazzled panel at 10pm. As such, Moinian was forced to withdraw and create a more robust application.

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