Six Years Later, Another Bar Tries to Make it Work at 106 Rivington Street
Remember the clusterfuck surrounding 106 Rivington Street? Get ready for more.
The sub-grade commercial space is perennially sealed behind lock and chicken wire. Or, had been. In the last few months, construction work has been underway on a new “Asian fusion” restaurant that possesses potential to rekindle another showdown with the neighborhood.
It was exactly five years ago when the last round of fighting concluded in defeat for a bold nightlife concept at 106 Rivington Street. Enrique Cruz – previously a sitting member of Community Board 3 – had been part of the team (along with Jose Orlando Rodriguez and Robert Payne) behind a proposed two-story Latin-themed restaurant. Neighbors alleged at the time that the size and scope of the project appeared more like a club than an eatery, and pushed back. It became a local flashpoint and media circus, with television crews planting tripods in small community rooms during the requisite CB3 hearings. Their proposal ultimately fizzled.
(The issue was also raison d’être for the then-nascent LES Dwellers Block Association.)
In the intervening years, drama slowed to a drip. Although, there were two basement fires months apart in 2015 blamed on a purportedly faulty boiler. Then, silence anew.
Until this past April, when Department of Buildings issused a partial permit for “Interior renovation of existing basement restaurant, first floor office as per existing Certificate of Occupancy; new storefront on first and second floor; new plumbing and mechanical work; no change in bulk or FAR.” Permit holder is Aleksander Gutgarts of American Standard Hospitality Group, which currently operates an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn called Forno Rosso.
Gutgarts joined forces with Akiva Ofshtein, a lawyer and onetime manager at Tavern on the Green. The CB3 docket for August identifies Ofshtein as the prinicpal of LES 106 RIV LLC, which seeks a full liquor license on one of the worst blocks in Hell Square. The applicants would need to prove a public benefit given the overwhelming volume of liquor licenses within 500 feet.
When asked about his application and plans for the space, Ofshtein confirmed to us that he and Gutgarts are together planning an “Asian fusion” restaurant.
In the meantime, some might recognize Ofshtein. His name was splashed all over the tabloids back in 2011 for a Park Slope proposal that many alleged as a bait-and-switch. Woodland (aka Prime 6), as it was known, had been billed as a local eatery but, according to a New York Post article at the time, “[Ofshtein] told state liquor officials that the two-story, 230-person ‘lounge,’ [would] hire four ‘security guards,’ offer ‘bottle service’ and have an outdoor ‘stand-up bar.’”
Needless to say, that bar became a lightning-rod issue, much in the same way the previous application did at 106 Rivington Street.
Could we be in for another round?