Michael White continues to push forward with his plans to expand Osteria Morini into the vacant storefront next door, but the neighborhood continues to oppose it. The new space, which would add a 45-seat private dining room, was up for a new liquor license at last night's Community Board 2 meeting, but that application was rejected by a vote of 25 to 10.
This is not the first time the restaurant has had a liquor license application rejected. Back in May the State Liquor Authority decided that the application violated the 500-foot rule that dictates how many liquor licenses can be in a given area. White's lawyers then filed a petition with the State Supreme Court to overturn that decision, arguing that the expansion only required an alteration of Morini's current license, rather than an entirely new one, but that move was unsuccessful. This time around, the Altamarea Group abandoned its "alteration" tack and instead attempted to prove that a new license would "serve the public interest," which would allow them to legally circumvent that 500-foot rule. But still no dice:
White's partner, Ahmass Fakahany appeared in front of CB 2 last night to try to make that case based on the "high-end" food and White's "celebrity chef" status. But as Sean Sweeney, the director of the Soho Alliance, points out in a statement: "[M]any thought this argument strained, since Soho is full of high-end restaurants with celebrity chefs. Who needs another one to disrupt the area? How does that serve the public interest?" The final verdict on the license won't come until the SLA hearing in a couple of months, but this expansion is looking even more doubtful than it already did.
· All Coverage of Osteria Morini [~ENY~]