Metrograph Hopes to Revive the Golden Age of Cinema Dining with ‘The Commissary’

Posted on: October 20th, 2015 at 5:00 am by

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Rendering of the Metrograph theater on Ludlow St.

Not much in the way of theatrics last night at the SLA subcommittee meeting for Community Board 3. The agenda was top-loaded with some of the more exciting and/or notorious liquor license applicants of late. Namely, Alexander Olch’s new cinema arts house on lower Ludlow Street, the Metrograph.

“The Commissary” at the Metrograph, 7 Ludlow Street

Primary proprietor (and first-time licensee) Alexander Olch laid out the specifics regarding the two-screen Metrograph theater, and identified the restaurant components as “The Commissary.” The concept behind the nightlife component is to emulate the classic Commissary at the Warner Brothers Studios, with the goal of evoking the golden years of film. Chef Jake Klein mined those menus as inspiration (i.e. “Art Deco American Cuisine”).

There are two hangouts inside 7 Ludlow – upstairs and downstairs, each with a respective bar. There will be nineteen tables between the two, plus “lounge seating.” Food and liquor will be served at all seats.

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Also in attendance were a slew of supporters – at least 30 (plus 92 support signatures) – including a local mother who was happy about children’s options and a filmmaker stoked about the added cultural element to the neighborhood. The executive director of the Henry Street Settlement, David Garza, also fully backed the overall plan (“art is oxygen”), as his employer forged a working relationship around shared programming.

This applicant was gonna sail through no matter what, despite the local opposition which failed to show face at the meeting. But it was really the Memorandum of Understanding reached with the SPaCE Block Association that expedited the process. That agreement included, among other things, a negotiated liquor cut-off at 2am with food served all hours and cleaning of exhaust pipes on a regular basis. The only real hurdle with the board was the issue of traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, and how that would affect the block.

The panel unanimously approved the Metrograph, but included stipulations that incorporated the MOU, banned DJs and live music, and that recorded background music be played in bar-restaurant areas and bookstore. They further memorialized the stated community benefit of providing a spot for the “learning and exhibition of film.”

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Fat Baby, 112 Rivington Street

Aptly described by one neighbor as a pox on Rivington Street, Fat Baby received nothing but grief from the community and the panel for its renewal. Neither Rob Shamlian nor anyone from their camp came. But the opposition did.

The LES Dwellers noted the illegal nature of the club (e.g. DOB deemed downstairs stage illegal), a license for which was initially denied by CB3 back in 2005. Most notably that Shamlian never really adhered to the method of operation set forth from the get-go – a lounge with food service, but no live music or dancing. A resident of 112 Rivington spoke on behalf of the building, explaining that Fat Baby is basically using the residential trash area, creating a feeding frenzy for rats and obstructing the boiler; also that ejected patrons are sent through the secondary egress which runs through the main lobby of the building, resulting in plenty of puke and passed-out patrons.

The board denied the renewal, stating the the SLA needs to revoke the license or hold the business to its original method of operation.

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Chinese Tuxedo, 5 Doyers Street

Chinese Tuxedo – the Melbournian-Chinese restaurant – was essentially defanged in the months since its April CB3 visit. The panel denied its bid for full liquor due to overwhelming opposition to a gargantuan project – 170+ occupancy – a such a tiny street. Eddy Buckingham and Hok Lam tried to circumvent the system over the summer by applying directly to the SLA for beer-wine, but were found out and sent back to committee.

The two principals forged a Memorandum of Understanding with a coalition of Chinatown community leaders on a set of stipulations. Hours of 10am-1am daily, 18-month waiting period from day of opening before applying for full liquor license, French doors close daily at 10pm, and no ticketed events or live music.

One resident in attendance spoke up to say that neighbors “will be watching” to ensure the Chinese Tuxedo plays by the rules. A veiled threat.

CB3 approved the measure.

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119 Orchard St., where the John Lamb will go

Loose change…

Cafe Cortadito at 210 East 3rd Street was panned for its illegal sidewalk operations and general disregard for the community. The full liquor license renewal was denied, as was the bid for sidewalk cafe renewal.

The John Lamb withdrew its application for the hotel at 119 Orchard Street again, for the umpteenth time in recent months. More community outreach is needed.

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