Notes from CB3: Chris Santos Approved for 199 Bowery, Lucky Bee Approved for Broome Street

Posted on: July 14th, 2015 at 5:00 am by

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Chris Santos at CB3 meeting

If the Community Board 3 SLA subcommittee meeting was a concert, last night’s headliner was really the application for Chris Santos and the Tao Group for 199 Bowery. As such, the applicants didn’t appear before the panel until well into the 10pm hour.

Nevertheless, it was a mixed bag of approvals and denials, plus plenty of outspoken opposition from neighbors. Let’s jump into some of the details, shall we (in no particular order)?

Chris Santos/Tao Group, 199 Bowery

After the twin catastrophes of EMM Group and BLVD, the halo of negativity now overshadows Tao Group in its bid for 199 Bowery. The nightlife heavyweights are already headlong into converting the space into an enormous restaurant with three dining rooms on the main level and a basement “lounge.” The concept takes a page from sister spot Beauty & Essex, and will include an up-front faux “gallery” entrance. Programming here will revolve periodically to include anything from a flower shop to a music store (what they call “a little surprise”). Overall theme will include a “street art vibe” from muralists, “not graffiti from the 70s,” as it was explained.

Opposition abounded. Neighbors here have been burned so many times in the past that they’re seemingly hesitant to lend a seal of approval, even if it’s a well-renowned chef like Chris Santos. The area – Bowery and Delancey – is so completely congested and overwhelmed with construction and roadwork. Opponents also noted that Tao has little experience running a nightlife establishment with residential up above.

Santos leaned heavily on his reputation, especially on the Lower East Side. We also heard that same argument that “something” will take this place, but better the devil you know. And that they went through great lengths to assure that Tao was removing all elements of a nightclub from the premise.

There was some wrangling with CB3 members over final operating hours, and whether early closing meant noisier dismissal onto the streets (rather than alleged staggered exiting if later closing). The Tao crew ultimately settled for 1am closing times during the week and 2am on weekends; 3am closing time all days for the basement lounge. Full liquor was approved for both levels.

Lucky Bee, 252 Broome Street

Jin Sushi is on the outs at 252 Broome, having elected not to renew their lease after ten years in business. The Lucky Bee is the replacement, yet will keep the layout virtually the same. The venture was conceived by Rupert Noffs and former Fat Radish chef Matty Bennett. As previously reported, the ten-table restaurant is full service and will focus on Southeast Asian fare, with the flair of Fat Radish. Their cocktail program carries a charity component in which some funds go toward supporting city beekeepers.

Thanks to an agreement ahead of time with the Orchard Street Block Association, the Lucky Bee was indeed. CB3 approved the full liquor license.

Boilermaker, 13 First Avenue

The principal and his legal counsel appeared before the subcommittee for an alteration to permit open windows until 10pm on the First Avenue facade. Something so innocuous resulted in heated discussion for nearly a half-hour.

Basically, what it boils down to (pun intended), is that Boilermaker is operating contrary to the two-year-old Memorandum of Understanding with the First Street Block Association. Upon license approval two years ago for Golden Cadillac, promises were made about expanding the menu and maintaining a fixed facade for life. Instead, there has been a name change, decrease in menu options, and pushing opening hours on the weekends, all without approval of CB3.

Boilermaker was denied the alteration request.

Black Rose Hospitality, 67 Clinton Street

This is a sale of assets from Barramundi, a bar that’s operated on the Lower East Side for over a decade. Tim Gashi and Valentino Gjakaj are behind the new venture, which will occupy both the ground level and second floor (currently 2nd Floor on Clinton). Their apparent lack of experience was sticking point. But! In arguably the first instance for CB3 proceedings, the applicants dragged their fathers to the meeting as character witnesses. Both worked in their fathers’ respective restaurants from an early age.

There is no full kitchen at the moment, but the community was assured that it’s in the works. CB3 approved the OP sale of assets.

Odds and ends:

  • Vietnamese restaurant Soothsayer – a local mother-son operation – withdrew its bid for 171 Avenue. It was much ado about the rear yard space, and the applicants’ inability to negotiate with the nearby block associations. Full liquor was sought, yet CB3 advised the team to return next month with a revamped application for beer-wine.
  • Poco on Avenue B was totally lambasted for being one of the worst operators in the district. Owner Sara Grizzle played off the damsel in distress approach when defending her actions (or lack thereof) when it came to the over-populated sidewalk cafe. She skirted the law by stuffing more than 30 tables into the outdoor space reserved for ten; free drinks were also illegally doled as prizes on several Bingo nights. It became clear that Grizzle had no idea what was happening at her own bar (she blamed it on having a kid and not being around as much). Since renewals are a joke with SLA, the committee nevertheless approved.
  • The new Allen Street coffee shop, Round K, sought beer and wine but were asked to withdraw. Their application was incomplete, and business model seemingly full of holes. Principals were confused on the overall hours sought (8pm vs 10 pm closing), and the panel felt that outreach wasn’t accurate enough. CB3 asked the applicants to return next month after better community engagement. This one won’t last…

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