Balthazar Alums to Open Bistro in Tribeca

cercle-rouge-4911 (1)Earlier today, I reported that the July Community Board 1 agendas include a liquor-license application for the former Cercle Rouge at 241 W. Broadway; the name attached to it is Sean Cunningham, who has a pub in the Meatpacking District called the Brass Monkey. Cunningham called just now to clarify that while he is indeed an investor in the project, it’s not his baby. Instead, the restaurant will be helmed by Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr, who gained notoriety working for Keith McNally. As Eater reported in 2013, when they left McNally’s operation, the two chefs “opened the seminal Balthazar with McNally in 1997, setting off a string of collaborative hits across downtown Manhattan in the 16 years that followed. In addition to running the kitchen and maintaining standards at Balthazar, Hanson and Nasr served as co-executive-chefs of Pastis, Schiller’s Liquor Bar, and most recently, Minetta Tavern.” Last we had heard about them around here, they were mulling the former Capsouto Frères, which of course ended up becoming China Blue.

Cunningham said the new place will definitely be more of a restaurant than a bar. We’ll learn all of the details on July 13. Given that the hours on the application are 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., the restaurant appears to be positioning itself as a worthy competitor to McNally’s all-day Augustine at the Beekman hotel.

Cercle Rouge



  1. Firstly investors do not apply for liquor licences, the owner must be the applicant. Thus, Sean Cunningham is the proposed owner/applicant, not just the investor. Why the smoke screen? Before I get further into all kinds of facts on The Frat House aka The Brass Monkey, with lines of screaming college kids waiting to get in through the barricades of bouncers I would like to see how this plays out at CB1 meeting on July 13th. Will the Tribeca Committee vote down the application and uphold the 200 foot law. After all, 245 West Broadway is the home of Dergah al-Farah, Mosque.

    Pursuant to the New York Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (ABC), the State Liquor Authority (SLA) is prohibited from issuing liquor licenses to establishments “on the same street or avenue and within 200 feet of a building occupied exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or other place of worship.

    • We haven’t seen the application, so for all we know there are many owners, and Cunningham is simply the one that CB1 put on the agenda.

      • An investor can indeed hold a liquor license. I’ve seen this arrangement on more than one occasion when the primary owner (i.e. the person actually running the business) wouldn’t get approval.

    • Maybe they just won’t tell the SLA about the mosque. That worked for Cercle Rouge and Bubble Lounge before. (Batard nee Montrachet has a license that predates the mosque.)

      From the February 2006 Tribeca Trib:

      “When bar or restaurant owners apply for a liquor license, they must swear that they are not violating the 200-foot law. If the SLA decides that the owner has falsified his application, he can lose his right to a license for two years. The West Broadway bar owners are pleading not guilty.

      “Georges Forgeois, who owns Cercle Rouge, said he thought Sufism, a branch of Islam, was ‘more a philosophy,’ rather than a religion. Besides, he said, several bars were already on the block when he moved in. ‘You cannot have someone spend all that money, then tell them that they can’t have their license,’ he said. ‘That’s not fair.’ […]

      “The building at 245 West Broadway, open for services twice a week, has no signage other than the following four lines, in small print, on the door: ‘Dergah/Nur Ashki Jurahai/Sufi Order/Masjid al-Farah’

      “A report written by an SLA investigator and obtained by the Trib concludes that the building is indeed a mosque, but states: ‘There are no signs or any indication that there is a Mosque located in the building.'”

      • If they are such pillars of community as they have been described in all in favor comments, then I guess they would be honest in answering the two main questions on the application;
        Is there a house of worship within 200 feet………..YES
        Is there a 3 or more liquor licenses within a 500 ft. radius…..YES

    • Actually, Your wrong. He is an investor and the chefs have full control of the restuarant. The Liqour attorney was hired by the investor and somehow this could have been the original applicant that he registered.

      Sean will be a great addition to the project, but let’s be clear, the public and residents already are in full support of this project.

      Comments like this are from disgruntled people who have a vendetta or you belong to the mosque or upset you didn’t get a stab at this great place?

      I can assure you that this superstar chef Duo will be owner operator and their COO who also is top notch will operate a restaurant that is already supported by the building, residents neighbors and the Mosque ( which is been confirmed is more of a community rather than a so called “church”.

      Everyone is in full support.

      • WRONG!,,,,The Mosque is a religious establishment not a community social gathering spot. Building Department has it listed as synagogue/church, that’s a fact. You certainly have a lot of detailed information on the pending application, you must me a good friend to the three musketeers.

      • it’s been a mosque for the whole time i’ve lived here which is over 30 years.

  2. Lets hope CB1 does not approve outdoor seating and there is no live music in front of doors and windows open to the street. Really been enjoying the quiet since Cercle Rouge disappeared.

    • I assume then that you are looking forward to the noncelebration of Bastille Day outside on West Broadway, featuring no amplified narration of the nonexistent petanque matches.

    • Quiet? There’s insane construction at every corner. When exactly did restaurants become the problem? Because they most certainly are not.

  3. I look forward to a new “good” french restaurant and a sidewalk cafe area on West Broadway.

  4. As a neighbor I too can’t wait for a vibrant restaurant and outdoor seating in the space again. I was somewhat concerned it may be yet another school for all of Tribeca’s amazingly gifted children.

  5. Looking forward to a good sidewalk bistro in Tribeca. These guys have the right resumé.

    • Bistro? Brass Monkey?…….Sounds more like Monkey Business.
      Remember Canvas?…..
      Chef Morimoto Reopens Tribeca Canvas As Bisutoro, Serving Asian-American Bistro Fare.
      CB1 stumbled on this liquor licence by issuing a 4:00 AM closing to a real celebrity chef with the right resume, the party room downstairs became a speakeasy and the residents of the building couldn’t get into their own homes.

  6. Sean Cunningham (and his family) are valued members of the West Village community. He has supported the local school and neighborhood causes without being asked to do so. Sundays at the Brass Monkey are completely family oriented affairs with talented musicians, making unamplified traditional music.

    He owns a bar in the Meat Packing district, which is next to a dog-run and another bar/restaurant, which is next to the Standard Hotel. And the problem with having people line up outside is what? Be real, if Sean intends to have an interest in a restaurant he will be more than conscious of the surrounding neighbors. Don’t trash someone if you do not know them. Otherwise, it smacks of bigotry.

    • One active location has a full liquor license, while the other active location has a wine-and-beer license only (which I understand is not subject to the same location restrictions as the full liquor license.)

      Found 3 matches for: “cunningham, sean” in Principal Name
      Displaying records 1 – 3.

      Premises Name Address License Class License Type Expiration Date License Status
      ICON LLC 218 220 BOWERY
      NEW YORK, NY 10013 252 OP 10/31/2013 Expired

      13TH & 14TH STREETS
      NEW YORK, NY 10014 252 OP 05/31/2018 License is Active

      ON-PREMISES LIQUOR: Generally considered to be the standard “bar” license. Allows on-premises consumption of liquor, wine and beer and also allows for sale of beer (only) for off-premises consumption. Food, such as soups and sandwiches, MUST be served.

      STORE #1
      NEW YORK, NY 10014 341 RW 12/31/2016 License is Active

      RESTAURANT WINE: License for on-premises consumption of wine and beer in a place where food is prepared in such quantities that the sale of wine and beer is not the prime source of revenue.

    • Cercle Rouge’s license is still shown as active by the State Liquor Authority, despite the place having been shut since March. They could be trying to transfer the license.

      License Information
      Serial Number: 1159636
      License Type: ON-PREMISES LIQUOR
      License Status: License is Active
      Credit Group: 2
      Filing Date: 12/15/2004
      Effective Date: 09/01/2015
      Expiration Date: 08/31/2017

      Premises Information
      Principal’s Name: FORGEOIS,GEORGE
      Premises Name: 241 W BWAY CAFE INC
      Trade Name: CERCLE ROUGE
      Zone: 1
      Address: 241 W BROADWAY
      NEW YORK, NY 10013
      County: NEW YORK

      • Anything is possible, but state agencies are not prompt with updating their sites on such matters. But I guess we shall soon find out.

    • “Be real, if Sean intends to have an interest in a restaurant he will be more than conscious of the surrounding neighbors. Don’t trash someone if you do not know them. Otherwise, it smacks of bigotry.”

      i thought mr. cunningham was just an investor.

      what does wanting to know who is actually responsible for the establishment have to do with bigotry?

  7. Why so defensive? Yes, talented musicians on Sundays or any other day of the week is just what we are lacking in Tribeca. LOL


  8. Looking forward to enjoying this place. Love all the places those chefs have opened and the neighborhood needs a great all-around restaurant. Lunch on that sidewalk – yes please!

  9. all the above just a wonderful example of what a bunch of nimby @ssholes Tribeca’s new residents are. Laters potatos.

  10. Why do so many of these “in favor” posts sound almost identical.

    • I see I am not the only one that noticed that. LOL!

    • I can vouch for nearly all of them as being people in Tribeca who might reasonably be excited about the possibility of this restaurant. (I count myself among them; this is the best-case scenario for that space.) Now perhaps someone can explain to me why houses of worship require and/or deserve a 200-foot buffer from alcohol? What are they afraid is going to happen? It’s ludicrous.

      • It’s not a 200-foot buffer from all alcohol, but rather a 200-foot buffer from mixed drinks, cocktails and other alcohol which is not beer or wine, i.e. spirits.

        Beer and wine licenses are issued to restaurants located within the 200 feet buffer.

        • Noted, but my question stands. Why are churches, synagogues, mosques, etc., afforded this buffer?

          • Here is an answer, with which everyone is free to disagree:

            It is hard to see why *bars* (and the subset of customers who end up intoxicated more easily on liquor alone than beer or wine served with food) should be located on the same street as a house of worship or a school. The state is considering legislation to let bonafide restaurants but not bars sell liquor within 200 feet.

            The 200 feet applies on the same street only and not around corners onto cross streets as I understand it. As such, it is less restrictive than it may seem. (Other states and cities put a cap on the total number of licenses available like NYC does with taxis, for example, which would be far more restrictive.) Finally, in a neighborhood where a $10,000 campaign contribution allegedly buys a developer a zoning variance worth $7 million that many in the neighborhood were vocally and implacably opposed to, one should think long and hard about weakening one of the few restrictions left against oversaturation of liquor licenses.

      • Journalistic objectivity is a significant principle of journalistic professionalism.
        Journalism needs to be more objective, accurate and investigative in the way it presents information and relays facts to the public. This objectivity in journalism helps the audience to make up their own mind about a story and decide what they want to believe. There is a necessity for reporters to present the honesty regarding the facts instead of always reporting information in an honest format. In addition, to maintain objectivity in journalism, journalists need to present the facts whether or not they like or agree with those facts. Objective journalism needs to remain neutral and unbiased regardless of the writers opinion or personal beliefs

      • Well said.

      • I agree, the 200-foot rule seems to be a ludicrous rule.
        And why does Andy C assume that newer Tribeca residents are
        “Nimby assholes” rather than older Tribeca residents?
        Why all these assumptions and speculations?

  11. This seems like an appropriate time to remind everyone that you should only comment under one name—and that I reserve the right to block anyone who poses as more than one person.

  12. “Finally, in a neighborhood where a $10,000 campaign contribution allegedly buys a developer a zoning variance worth $7 million that many in the neighborhood were vocally and implacably opposed to, ”

    @James: What specifically are you referring to? I must have missed this.


      Quoting the Daily News on 100 Franklin Street:

      In truth, New York’s deep-pocket givers often look for something from the mayor’s administrations at the same time they’re funding his political dreams.

      Take developer Joe McMillan, who last year proposed building a luxury condo on a sliver of highly valuable property in upscale Tribeca.

      The community board opposed it, claiming that jamming this condo onto the tiny lot would “negatively impact the character of the neighborhood.”

      To alter zoning, builders must show they face a hardship they can’t overcome without the change. McMillan claimed he couldn’t make a profit unless he could build bigger. The board said he could build smaller and still make money.

      “The idea is that you can’t vary every regulation in town,” said Michael Levine, Community Board 1’s consulting planner. “There must be a hardship behind it or the zoning would have no meaning.”

      McMillan’s company, DDG Partners, hired Kramer Levin, the lobbyist law firm that includes as a partner Barry Berke, de Blasio’s former campaign treasurer. Kramer Levin reported lobbying the mayor’s office and the Board of Standards and Appeals for DDG.

      The board approved everything they requested, allowing DDG to build 10 luxury condo units with retail space in one of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods. In records, McMillan estimates his profits at $7 million.

      Standards & Appeals granted DDG’s zoning change June 23. Eight days later, one of DDG’s limited affiliates donated $10,000 to Campaign for One New York.

      “It’s very odd case and a very odd decision. I’ve never seen one like this in all my years of city government,” said Community Board 1’s Levine. “The site is so peculiar, the community is so opposed, and the board approved it anyway.”

  13. I regret losing Cercle Rouge but am delighted to hear that The Balthazar alums want to open a restaurant there. Fun places like this are what makes Tribeca attractive to so many people.

    I don’t see why the state has any interest in protecting religious institutions. Most people are irreligious these days and few go to church. Who cares if a bunch or narrow minded religious bigots don’t want a bar room next door?