The award-winning bartenders behind East Village cocktail bars Nitecap and Death & Co. are trying to open a bar similar to Nitecap in the West Village. David Kaplan, Natasha David, and Alex Day went in front of Manhattan Community Board 2's State Liquor Authority committee on Thursday to pitch their idea for another one of their high-end cocktail bars in a basement space at 535 Hudson St. "One of our big goals with this property was to create another version of Nitecap, which has been very successful in the neighborhood — a point of refuge in an already busy neighborhood," Day says. "We're very excited about bringing that sense of refuge to the West Village."
The bar would serve cocktails that the proprietors have become famous for, with use of locally sourced ingredients for drinks as well as food. A food menu would feature small plates that are more substantial than bar snacks but not large enough to constitute a full-blown restaurant meal. "We're not using guns with sour mix," David says. "We're using fresh lemon juice. We're using housemade syrups. The cost of our goods are a little more expensive. The people who come to our bars come because of that experience." The attention to detail has won the crew accolades. David was Eater's 2014 bartender of the year, and they won an award for best cocktail menu in 2010.
Despite Death & Co and Nitecap's cocktail reputation, several locals showed up to the meeting to protest the issuance of a liquor license at the location. Some say that the "young Wall Street partiers" showing up at nearby Wild are already making a mess of the street, and the area doesn't need another cocktail bar. Several of them commented that they would have agreed to the concept in another location, but they want that particular spot to remain liquor free. "I don’t care if Tom Cruise is behind the bar," one local man says. "This is going to be a nightmare." The new location falls under the 500 foot rule, meaning a new liquor license within 500 feet of other licenses has to demonstrate community need. The community board's vote is advisory to the State Liquor Authority, which ultimately makes the decision.
It's not the first time the crew has faced a battle for a liquor license. When Death & Co., opened the operators battled for its liquor license over the course of two years. Community Board 3 denied a request to renew the license in 2007, with complaints of noise, improper garbage disposal, and lack of crowd control. It had to shut down for a week as the SLA worked on an "administrative issue." Later that year, the SLA closed it again and fined the bar $10,000 for not listing the owners on the license. Kaplan sued the SLA in 2008, and Death & Co. didn't officially get the right to sell alcohol until summer 2009.
But they insisted that they've become good neighbors on East 6th Street, which is residential like the planned new location. "We have proven ourselves to be great neighbors," Kaplan says. "We believe very much that it would be very different from anything there [already in West Village]."
In other liquor license news:
— Canadian Chef Jordan Andino, who's made appearances on shows like Chopped, wants to open a cafe that serves Filipino-Mexican food called 2nd City. It's a "burrito filled with Filipino food," Andino says. Co-founder Michael Ryan has managed at the Morgans Hotel Group and the Nobu restaurants, while other co-founder David Sewell has worked at places like Starwich. Sewell also worked at Morgans Hotel Group.
SLA committee co-chair Carter Booth quickly cut them off of their presentation after the business owners mentioned that there's no public restroom. "We’re more than happy to hear this next month when you’ve figured it out," he tells the crew. Andino and his crew seemed confused since the previous restaurant had a liquor license, but they agree to leave anyway.
— Cafe Nadery, a Persian cafe that aims to also be a cultural gathering place, is asking for a full liquor license in hopes of breaking even on sales. The spot is inspired by the Naderi Cafe from Tehran, an old place that poets, journalists, and philosophers gathered. People often come in, chat, use the Internet, or host events, the owners say. But after two and a half years in business, the spot is not making money, says owner Melanie Griot. With help with a loan, they're not desperate or planning to close soon, Griot says. They just want the extra help from sales of Persian style cocktails. "It's going to be a big push to help our sales 10 to 15 percent, which is what we need to break even to pay our bills," Griot says.
Cafe Nadery is also looking to improve the business, like offering delivery and adding more egg dishes to the brunch menu. Sales are down slightly this year, and a fire last year cost money to repair that insurance has yet to reimburse, Griot says. "Yes, we're losing money, but we have hopes, and we have experienced difficulties in the past. We were able to keep going and increase our sales," Griot says. "We're hoping to do that again."
The board received Griot's pleas well, and a local block club representative named Cormac Flynn stood up to sing the praises of the cafe. Cafe Nadery has been a good neighbor and has been true to the owners' words about aiming to be a community space, Flynn says. "It's for the public interest rather than something designed to make a lot of money," he says. "If this were a regular profit-making bar, I would say no no no. I think these folks are worth giving a chance."
— Restaurateur Phil Alotta, owner of Riposo 46, Chelsea Grill, and The Cannery, is planning a place called Burgers and Bourbon, to be run by his son Danny. Alotta fell in love with the idea in Kentucky. The restaurant, at 310 Spring St., will have 36 seats, 12 seats at the bar, and a sidewalk cafe whose size is to be determined. The restaurateur agreed to several provisions, including fixing one of the facades and considering reducing the number of outdoor tables.