Notes from CB3: Chinese Tuxedo for Doyers Denied Outright, Support for Pizza Beach in Hell Square, and More

Posted on: April 21st, 2015 at 4:44 am by

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167 Orchard St., future home of Pizza Beach

For the SLA subcommittee of Community Board 3, last night was one marked by surprises. It saw the Lower East Side Dwellers supporting a new liquor license and established restaurateurs coming out against new liquor licenses. And notably absent from the panel was Ariel Palitz, who is no longer part of the rank-and-file.

Here are some highlights from our three-plus-hour stint on the sidelines.

Chinese Tuxedo, 5 Doyers Street

This was probably the marquee applicant of the evening; nearly an hour was spent discussing why Doyers Street doesn’t need an OP establishment that accommodates some 200 people. Indeed, there is already Apotheke and Pulqueria.

Chinese Tuxedo itself is a reimagining of the original restaurant that operated here at the turn of the last century, and would offer “traditional Cantonese” food in a “modern setting.” Plans call for forty tables with 190 seats, horseshoe bar, and even French doors. Its principals are Australian-born Eddy Buckhingham and Hok Lam. The former is behind The Liberty in midtown, and the latter an owner of the Lam Group real estate company on Allen Street. We heard an impassioned pitch about their love of Chinatown, its culture, and cuisine.

There was opposition right out of the gate, thanks in large part to its out-of-scale nature within its surroundings. It certainly didn’t help that Nom Wah Tea Parlor owner Wilson Tang opposed the venture and its crusade for full liquor (though, he did support wine and beer). Each of the board members relayed fears of possible bait-and-switch and further creating a “destination” on a block can barely fit one car. The common thread was that the concept was great, but the location shit. Even Chair Gigi Li – who lives on Pell Street – sent a written statement stating that Chinese Tuxedo is a restaurant that belongs on an avenue, not a small sidestreet.

The panel tried to float a wine-beer consolation, but the applicant wasn’t interested. Denial came heavy. Expect the Tuxedo to suit up directly for the State Liquor Authority.

Pizza Beach, 167 Orchard Street

The notorious Martignetti brothers were in attendance for a second Pizza Beach branch in Hell Square, as previously reported. Marred by a negative reputation for its well-recorded disregard of quality-of-life concerns, the applicants successfully pitched their 40-table establishment in Rob Shamlian’s old Derby space on Orchard Street.

Despite its troublesome past and location within Hell Square, there was almost no resistance to this Pizza Beach. Largely because the LES Dwellers spent weeks negotiating binding stipulations with the newcomers. The main points agreed upon were 1am weekday closing/2am weekend and the removal of the service bar in the cellar. It was a leap of faith for the outspoken block association which weighed the somewhat controlled current evil with that of the unknown evil.

The panel agreed with the Dwellers addendum and moved to approve the full liquor license.

Blockheads, 60 Third Avenue

The Mexican mini-chain is taking over the space formerly occupied by Unidentified Flying Chickens. The two founding brothers of Benny’s Burritos are behind Blockheads and easily scored approval for a full liquor license (Ken Sofer opened the East Village Benny’s, but sold his stake a decade later). Not too surprising given their pedigree and track record across the city.

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Ellie & Jack’s, 92 Second Avenue

Principals Ed Donovan and Christopher Barsa didn’t fool anyone with their proposal for an upscale “modern American” restaurant at the old Kabin, which would attract the thirty-plus crowd. Especially considering their history with the Wharf up in Midtown East.

At least seventeen residents from the immediate vicinity (i.e. East 5th Street) turned out to oppose the application, citing Kabin’s terrible history on the block. And the fact that this section of 2nd Avenue is totally overrun with nightlife (a trend that’s inescapable these days).

This sale of assets from Kabin was stonewalled by the board.

Au Za’atar, 188 Avenue A

Owner Tarik Fallous swapped his Table 12 concept for the Au Za’atar Lebanese restaurant last summer. He appeared last night to obtain a green light for an upgrade to OP. The eatery is fairly popular with the locals, and even Ralph Nader dined there (at least according to Fallous).

Block associations bordering the establishment were hesitant to support, noting the “college dorm” nature of Avenue A these days. There were also ten letters of opposition.

This was the unique scenario in which nearly all were in agreement that Au Za’atar was a great restaurant – even those sitting members of CB3. Yet the verdict didn’t so much reflect that line of thinking. The renewal was ultimately denied.

Lucien, 14 First Avenue

Lucien was up for a renewal and sailed through. There was no opposition to the East Village institution, except complaints logged by some outspoken residents within earshot. Opened in 1998, this family operation was rewarded without incident. Approval.

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