A man who played a huge role in shaping both crowd-pleasing and fine dining in NYC is getting back into the restaurant game. Steve Cuozzo at the Post reports that Stephen Hanson — the restaurateur who founded monster hospitality group BR Guest — will be opening a new restaurant at the old Life magazine building. Hanson hasn’t opened an NYC restaurant since he sold his final stake in BR Guest in more than three years ago.
Hanson is an investor in the Herald Square building at 19 West 31st St., along with developer David Mitchell. The 1895 building will become a boutique hotel aiming for “a cool, Nomad-area vibe” and “the spirit of the 1920s,” according to the Post. The Life Restaurant, run by Hanson, will have a lounge with 55 seats, a dining room with 80 seats, and a bar on the ground floor. Chef Michael Vignola, who used to work at BR Guest restaurants, will man the kitchen, serving a “vegetable-centric” menu with seafood and pasta.
Hanson founded BR Guest in 1987 and turned it into a huge collection of some of the most popular restaurants in New York City. He is behind restaurants like Dos Caminos, Bill’s Bar and Burger, and pan-Asian clubstaurant pioneer Ruby Foo’s, as well as more upscale spots like Blue Water Grill, Primehouse, and Fiamma, a now-shuttered Italian restaurant that earned a Michelin star while open. Many consider him one of the city’s most influential hospitality figures.
The restaurateur sold BR Guest in 2007 to Starwood Capital Group for $150 million with plans for massive expansion, but after the economy tanked, many of the BR Guest restaurants closed. Hanson ultimately left the company he founded in 2013, citing plans “to pursue other opportunities.”
The hotel and the restaurant are expected to debut in April.