It might be a while before New York barbecue master Billy Durney will be able to open his highly anticipated sophomore restaurant Hometown Fried Chicken. After more than a year of construction issues, progress on the fried chicken restaurant was again recently halted at 329 Van Brunt Street in Red Hook after the Department of Buildings issued a lifetime ban on the expeditor working on the project.
The city issued a ban on longtime expeditor and engineer Scott Schnall’s nearly 300 projects earlier this year, claiming that they no longer trust him to file honest documents, according to The Real Deal. As an expeditor, the nearly 30-year industry veteran files permits with the Department of Buildings and helps people working on construction projects navigate the agency’s bureaucracy.
Though the stop work order has since been lifted on the Hometown Fried Chicken space, Durney tells Eater that he has discussed “possibly finding a new location” for the fried chicken restaurant.
The current building is more than 100 years old old, and structural problems with the space have pushed back an opening date over the last year as well. Durney signed a lease back in January 2016. Still, he hasn’t totally abandoned the Van Brunt Street space. “This is a very passionate project for me,” he writes in an email to Eater, “and I have not made any decisions.”
Meanwhile, Schnall is suing the Department of Buildings for the ban, claiming that the city performed an audit on his work as retaliation for calling the agency “screwed up” in 2014. Durney writes that the DOB is “crucifying” Schnall. “The city makes it impossible for hard working people to open a restaurant, which is already an impossibly hard business,” he says.
A slew of Schnall’s other clients and friends are also supporting the expeditor. He’s started a GoFundMe to raise money for his legal battle with the DOB. Already, 76 people have donated more than $26,000 to the cause.
Hometown Fried Chicken has been an anticipated opening for some time. Durney quickly rose to barbecue fame after he opened Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook in 2013, even though he didn’t come from a cooking background. Many pitmasters now consider his restaurant quintessential New York barbecue. He took on an obsession with detail when he started developing fried chicken recipes for the new restaurant nearly two years ago, testing everything from the type of oil to how it’s fried. Stay tuned for more.