Notes from CB3: Arlene’s Grocery Renewed, Damion Luaiye Approved

Posted on: September 2nd, 2015 at 5:00 am by
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The SLA subcommittee of Community Board 3 met last night for the second time in as many weeks. A scheduling choice that left little time for recuperation. Nevertheless, applicants, board members, and media stocked the chairs for another night of dueling. The meeting itself was a bit more subdued than most, but still an all-night affair.

Arlene’s Grocery, 95 Stanton Street

The seminal rock club turned twenty this year, and was up for a liquor license renewal. Consensus in the room was that the venue never really had issues with neighbors until two years ago. That’s when ownership decided to knock through the brick wall and install an all-glass facade of French doors. (An alteration was required, but never heard before CB3.) Since then, quality-of-life has understandably declined. Noise more easily emanates from the premises.

This was the main bone of contention. LES Dwellers voiced as much, but also recognized the importance of having the establishment in the neighborhood. However, the support stopped short of endorsement for renewal. Unless, of course, changes were made to the front.

The board backed the renewal but with stipulations that windows close at 10pm, additional soundproofing be added to the front room, that an employee monitors the sidewalk, and that no DJ spins in the front room until the sound issues are addressed.

Excuse My French, 96 Orchard Street

The Lower East Side soundalike (there’s already a Pardon My French) appeared before CB3 to obtain full liquor privileges for the former Cafe Dancer space at 96 Orchard Street. Pitched as an enhancement over the predecessor, Excuse My French will offer a menu of “French-focused small plates,” with Chef Johann Giraud (La Mangeoire) at the helm. The gimmick here is that the principals will utilize an “electronic kitchen” to prepare the food; meaning no vents or hoods that would otherwise bother neighbors. Apparently there’s been some local success with this method.

There will also be three 55-inch monitors on which the restaurant will project artful “moving images.” What we understand as GIFs; no video.

It helped that the applicants entered into an agreement with the Orchard Street Block Association, one that included clauses about the size and scope of said video monitors inside the premises (no live events, etc). The board approved the full license, but stipulated that ownership need to install additional soundproofing, and agree to closing hours of 12am during the week, and 2am on weekends.

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Damion Luaiye vs. CB3

Et Al., 191 Chrystie Street

Some of that Rose Bar flavor is coming down to Chrystie Street. Nine-year manager there, Damion Luaiye, is gunning to open an “exclusive” new concept at the soon-to-fold Experimental Cocktail Club. Et Al, as it’s called, was pitched as a “sophisticated elegant room” and a “place for adults” amidst a glut of frat bars. He stated over and over that it wouldn’t be a place with deafening music or club atmosphere.

Approval was in their corner, but it took nearly an hour to get there. Their approach was banking on the reduction of the overall club footprint – using basement for office space and including only one stand-up bar on the first floor. Also, walk-ins off the street won’t be welcome, pushing the exclusive nature of the establishment. Instead, patrons are required to submit a reservation for the evening, so they’re expected. This, Luaiye argued, would keep potential riffraff at bay.

Seven loyalists spoke in support of Et Al, noting the trustworthy character of Luaiye and the subdued nature of Rose Bar. The Bowery Block Association, however, voiced opposition due to the congested nature of the block and worries of its worsening. There was also some concern over what “entertainment level music” meant in the context of actually being there (spoiler: it’s still not clear).

The panel approved the full liquor license (a sale of assets), with Et Al compromising on hours. It’ll close at 2am Sunday through Tuesday, and 4am the remainder of the week.

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