Here’s one big reason why restaurateur Stephen Starr ended up joining the new Pastis: After famed restaurateur Keith McNally suffered a stroke more than a year ago, his investors pulled out of the project to bring back the iconic Meatpacking District restaurant.
At a Manhattan Community Board 2 liquor license meeting on Thursday night, McNally’s son Harry represented his father and read a prepared statement describing the struggle to bring back Pastis and why McNally decided to partner with Starr.
Keith McNally announced the new location of Pastis at 52 Gansevoort St. in 2015 and applied for a liquor license then. But following the stroke, which left McNally paralyzed on his right side, his initial investors left the project. He tasked his children Harry and Sophie with helping him keep his businesses running, according to the statement Harry read.
Starr — a prolific entrepreneur with restaurant hits like Le Coucou — heard about the situation from Keith McNally’s landlord, who was showing Starr a different property and said he heard McNally might be seeking a new partner.
Starr jumped at the opportunity, he said. “I love Keith and I admire him as a restaurateur for everything he has done in New York City,” Starr tells Eater. “We share similar opinions of what a restaurant should be, especially when it comes to design.” He stepped in with both funds and operational expertise to help with the revival.
While both partners will be involved in the restaurant’s operations, McNally will take a more hands-off approach; Starr will oversee the day-to-day operations. Starr and Harry McNally promised that the new project will be very much like the original Pastis, only “better,” according to Starr and McNally’s statement.
The legendary restaurant opened in the neighborhood in 1999, helping to turn the Meatpacking District into a stylish and celebrity-packed destination for dining. It closed in 2014 due to an overhaul of the property.
The community board approved the new request for a liquor license after some back and forth about late hours; overall, they were happy about the return of Pastis. The approval is advisory to the State Liquor Authority, which makes the final decision. The restaurant, which is projected to open early next year, will seat 184 people and have a sidewalk cafe.