It was a surprise that residents of 52 Thomas (also known as 200 Church) objected so vehemently to Tribeca’s Kitchen’s application for a liquor license in the northwest corner, where Kidville was. With closing hours of midnight/1 a.m. and no bar area, the gentrified diner was never going to be mistaken for the Meatpacking District, and the owners are from Gee Whiz, the diner that has been on Greenwich for 24 years. But object they did at last night’s meeting of Community Board 1′s Tribeca Committee, toting with them a petition signed by all of the building’s residents. I haven’t panties this twisted in a long time. You would have thought Tribeca’s Kitchen was a euphemism for a strip club: The phrase “the children” must have been used more than a dozen times in explaining why they thought no restaurant should be in the space; the 22 kids under 10 who live in the building will be bothered by the noise coming up through the ductwork, by the garbage pickups and deliveries in the morning, and so on. (Honestly, how do children in the Third World survive?) Plus, the area is dead at night and they’d like to keep it that way! And there are too many other liquor licenses nearby! A main factor: The building was evidently not converted (six years ago) quite as thoroughly as residents would like—indeed, they’re in litigation with the sponsor over noise, ventilation, and other issues—and the sponsor has yet to provide residents with plans on the restaurant’s ventilation. One sympathizes with that. I do wonder, however, how anyone could move into a building on an avenue in a still-developing neighborhood and be taken aback when someone dares to want to open a restaurant in the corner retail unit—which, according to what I understood last night, has been ventilated for a potential restaurant from the start.
If that was a surprise, however, what came next was a shock. The committee voted 0-6 in support of Tribeca’s Kitchen. Where was the leeway traditionally shown to restaurateurs with a good record? (See what it got George Forgeois just a half hour later—and then go to Gee Whiz and see how many little league teams the diner has sponsored over the decades.) Where was the willingness to broker a compromise? (Tribeca’s Kitchen offered to close at midnight instead of 1 a.m., but it fell on dead ears.) Where was the burning desire for affordable restaurants? What happened to the realization—it came and went—that these issues are intra-building and don’t have anything to do with whether a restaurant should serve alcohol? Since when do residents get to preemptively blackball a restaurant? Because this sets a heck of a precedent.
One last question: Did anyone realize that you don’t need a liquor license to open a late-night McDonald’s? The devil they don’t know might end being much, much worse.
Update 9/11: I heard from the folks at Tribeca’s Kitchen: “We will be reaching out to the community and the condo board to work towards a solution. As always, we will continue to support the community, and only hope that the community will not turn its back on us after more than two decades of support from us.”
Another update 9/11: I took a photo that shows the restaurant vis-a-vis the rest of the building.