Welcome to First Word, wherein Eater and its correspondents sit for hours at steamy community board meetings to bring back the first word of new establishments and what they're up to. Your reports from the field always encouraged to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last night, Community Board 3, restaurant and bar owners, and the public all convened for one long but productive SLA licensing meeting. As candidates came before the board and their public, a common conflict emerged—the residents vs. the "shopkeepers"—and it seemed to rage a little hotter than usual. Let's start with Freemans.
1) Freemans has certainly been through the mill this year at board meetings laden with stipulations and community complaints. However, the owners came forward and presented their meticulous compliance with all demands set forth back in October, including removing the bench out front, creating a sign and having trash collectors come in on bicycles so not to disturb the residents. What do they want in return? To expand to the second floor, add a second service bar and allow for prep service in the basement.
After presenting a petition with 250 signatures and a three page letter in their favor from an enthusiastic neighbor, residents came forward with the same grievances as usual, and the room erupted in resident vs. business owner debate, which nearly determined their single-floored fate. However, in the end Freeman's was granted approval for all of its requests - as long as a security guard is hired to man the alley and keep noise levels down.
2) Max fans can look forward to the opening of its third location on 36 East 2nd St. - it was approved for a liquor license and should have an outdoor cafe area. However, stipulations for approval called for the closing of the outdoor area at 10 PM along 2nd St. and 11 PM on 2nd Ave. A fun fact: this restaurant will be the first inhabitant in that street level space in 40 years. While the upper levels are apartments, the street level was a car dealership after World War II and hasn't been used since, according to the landlady.
3) Pastry chef and managing partner of Sigmund Pretzel Shop, Lina Kulchinsky, came before the board with an application for a liquor license (who can deny that pretzels beg for a beer?). However, residents of the blocks surrounding her shop were especially vigilant, citing that they want to restore balance in the neighborhood. Approval just wasn't in the cards for her. Maybe things will change when Sigmund establishes itself in the area a bit more.
4) A yet-to-be-named group surfaced with a proposal to utilize the old Butterfly space, a stone's throw away from Sigmund, for a 3,000 square foot Italian restaurant, catering company and lounge "with an occasional D.J." This scenario sounds familiar - and the residents didn't hesitate to show their fresh battle scars from the throes of Le Souk, China 1 and Carnivale, all restaurants-gone-clubs that they say wrecked havoc on the peace and quiet in their 'hood. Needless to say, this was too much for CB3 and the community representatives to stomach, and after a lengthy dispute of pros and cons, the motion was denied.
5) Thanks to a relatively easy approval, Barramundi is using its private party space to house a small 5 x 6 foot service bar upstairs for the public and customers downstairs.
6) Although it seems odd to deny beer and pretzels, beer and Porchetta was permitted! Porchetta was given the green light for a beer license.
7) With the approvals, there are always denials. SPOT was denied a liquor license, again due to the saturation of bars and licenses on St. Marks (at least 16 other licenses were cited within 500 feet of the storefront). Similarly, SPOT's neighbor PHO 32 was denied.
8) The south side of East Houston Street will get a little bit more attractive in April: the former owners of Boucarou will be opening a French restaurant, slated to be named Lina Frey (201 E Houston St.) and it was approved for a liquor license.