CB3 Approves Serafina for Rivington; Chinatown Fights Against Le Baron Replacement

Posted on: May 17th, 2016 at 5:00 am by
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Italian cuisine will remain at 98 Rivington Street, as Serafina scored its approval. And Chinatown is against whatever Le Baron replacement Ron Castellano has up his sleeve. Those are the dual headlines from last night’s SLA subcommittee meeting of Community Board 3. The gathering was mind-numbing, as per usual, with the added benefit of a wafting vomit scent (fittingly). Oh, and Zagat was there filming some piece.

Herewith, a few notable highlights to digest…


Serafina, 98 Rivington Street

Serafina sought full liquor in a saturated area bursting with more than fifty licenses in 500 feet. There was plenty of static from the panel about the abundance of nightlife in Hell Square, and questioned why this particular location would be open later than others in their stable. Indeed, 98 Rivington applied for later closing times on paper (i.e. 2am all days) than the other Serafina satellites.

LES Dwellers block association opposed the application as is, and would only agree to full liquor here if hours were severely curtailed.

Landlord Michael Forrest, who previously operated Galli and sits on the board of the LES Partnership, noted how he wanted a restaurant that would have staying power and with a reputation to anchor the block. He argued that further cutting back hours – ‘inoteca had 4am closing – limits the success of his ground level tenant (i.e. cuts into his bottom line). That was like chum in the water for CB3, who basically railed against the notion of the locals shouldering the burdens to bolster his bottom line. (Forrest bought the building in 2007 during the ‘inoteca years.)

In the end, without compelling argument of public benefit, a full liquor license was awarded. Albeit with slimmed hours. The compromise was set at closing times of 1am during the week and 2am on weekends. CB3 acknowledged the experience of the operators and the 133 signatures of support.

MJK Foods, 32 Mulberry Street

Neighborhood advocate Karlin Chan rallied the troops to fight the Le Baron replacement at 32 Mulberry Street. And it worked. Ron Castellano and his partners (one of whom is Max Levai, an owner of Happy Ending) were forced to withdraw, literally at the eleventh hour.

As previously reported, Castellano is vying to return to the address to impart an apparent bait-and-switch waiting to happen. Seriously, a Japanese concept centered on “small plates” with a large open space in cellar bar area (i.e. dance floor) raises all the red flags in the house.

Chan led the charge, armed with 140 signatures of opposition and photos of life under the thumb of Le Baron. He also measured the distance from the address to the True Light Lutheran church on corner of Mulberry and Worth Streets; it’s under 200 feet which triggers greater SLA scrutiny. On defense, Castellano noted that it’s a previously licensed location. CB3 agreed that the state needed to weigh in with new measurement.

Also, Emma Culbert from SPaCE Block Association spoke as character witness for Castellano speaking about his previous endeavors on East Broadway. 

Nishiwaki, 217 Eldridge Street

Controversial Sushi Dojo vet David Bouhadana got the green light from CB3 for his sushi new upscale sushi concept. He and partner Derek Feldman purchased the remainder of the lease and other assets from Apizz, which shuttered back in February.

There was concern about the late closing of 2am given that the prior tenant closed at 11am daily, and how this would be a drastic change for an overwhelmingly residential block. We heard about how the high-end nature of the Omakase tasting menu and pricing pointed to the dining nature of the endeavor. That there wouldn’t be any crowding on the street or excess noise. In fact, save one tiny window twelve feet above the ground, there aren’t any others.

The panel approved the full OP application, but reduced their closing by one hour to 1am all days.

Old Man Hustle, 39 Essex Street

The old man was up for renewal last night, but went home without. Not surprisingly; there’s bad blood between the two.

Despite the approval of a corporate change earlier this year, CB3 had simultaneously denied an alteration to its method of operation for longer hours. With regard to the renewal, the problematic history was again unearthed. Namely, the sales to minors (which led to closure last December), dozens of 311 complaints, and an arrest onsite.

The SPaCE Block Association opposed the renewal due to the quality-of-life issues and because it hasn’t lived up to its binding stipulations.

Standoffish owner Jesse Danoff didn’t feel the need to speak to any of the concerns and took the denial in stride.

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