Grand Plans for the Former American Flatbread Space

I left last night’s meeting of the Community Board 1 Licensing Committee after two hours, but a heroic reader who stayed for four hours sent info about the proposal for 205 Hudson, where American Flatbread used to be. The presentation indicates a rustic atmosphere, with 260 seats inside and 48 seats outside.

They are proposing a food hall/bar(s) with hours until 4 a.m. There would be three bars in the space (two on the main level and one in the basement). They would also like to have a DJ in the basement. They are also looking to add extensive outdoor seating. You know how Tribeca Rooftop and 360 sometimes have food trucks on our block after a wedding? I think the idea is to bring that inside by having these food stations and selling alcohol, too. Basically, just monetize the crowds after events, which would exacerbate the problem of drunk crowds on the block until late hours. Several residents were in attendance and were very vocal with their objections especially considering the existing problems we have with traffic congestion, drunk partygoers, trash on the street, etc. The block [Desbrosses] simply cannot handle the existing crowds. At the end of the meeting, the board decided they would recommend hours of 12 a.m. on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends. But I understand it’s just a recommendation and another body [the State Liquor Authority] makes the ultimate decision.

I’m not sure how CB1 allowed this to be presented as “alteration for extension of hours” on the agenda, since it’s an entirely different beast, even if the ownership hasn’t changed; I have no doubt more neighbors would be upset if they knew about it (especially regarding the request for 4 a.m. closing). When Tribeca Rooftop’s Billy Reilly suggested making it an event space back in the spring of 2015, they protested vigorously.

UPDATE: A member of CB1 asked me to reiterate something: If you have an issue with a bar or restaurant or event space, the best thing you can do is file a complaint with 311 (you don’t even have to call; you can do it online.) and the State Liquor Authority. Nothing will likely happen as a direct result, but you’ll get a complaint number that you should forward on to CB1 (email man01@cb.nyc.gov). These numbers are the main way CB1 keeps track of issues regarding local businesses, and they’re what the State Liquor Authority will take into consideration when a renewal, alteration, or new license comes up. The SLA has said that the only way it’ll reject a renewal is if there’s a trail of prior complaints.

UPDATE #2: The folks behind Sevahaus, as it’ll be known, asked to meet to talk about their plans. I’m sure much/most/all of this was explained at the CB1 meeting, but it bears including here: The southern half of the space, along Desbrosses, will be a more casual food hall, along the lines of Urbanspace or Canal Street Market (but they’re shooting for more upscale that that). Principal Neelam Brar said that the idea is to serve as an incubator for culinary types, who might not have the wherewithal to open an independent restaurant. The northern half is more of a lounge, where you’ll be able to order some food from the fast-casual vendors to the south. Downstairs will be used both as lounge and for meetings and other events; Brar’s other business is a co-working space, and she wants to create TED Talk–like programming for women, entrepreneurs, and so on. The Seva part of the name Sevahaus comes from the Sanskrit word seva, which means “selfless service.”

I said that while I wasn’t at the CB1 discussion, I imagined that they faced two main roadblocks: Requesting a closing hour of 4 a.m. is like waving a red flag in front of the committee, and the residents along Desbrosses are wary of Billy Reilly, who is part of Sevahaus, because of his two large event spaces atop 205 Hudson. They said they felt strongly that 4 a.m. was important—although I remain unconvinced there’s a market for that around here—and they pointed out that because the exit is on Hudson, 99% of patrons will head north on Hudson or east/west on Canal (not down Desbrosses). Reilly, for his part, expressed frustration that he has not gotten credit for trying to accommodate residents’ requests in recent years. When he held a community meeting a few years back, locals came up with a list of a dozen things they’d like fixed, and he said he’s done eight or nine of them—and maybe he’s ready to do the rest. (He said he has added a line to his contract for events that explicitly requests no one hire food trucks to park on Desbrosses. “I can’t forbid them from doing it,” he said.) They all said that Sevahaus is not operationally aligned with Tribeca Rooftop or 360, that it’s not meant to be a venue for after parties—but if people do visit after an event upstairs, it might be preferable to hanging out on the street.

I suggested they hold another community meeting so people would know what they have in mind; residents probably feel like the proprietors are trying to pull one over on them because of the way it was positioned on the CB1 agenda. And I recommended they strongly consider trying for 4 a.m. after being open for a while, so CB1 will have a better sense of the establishment. Finally, I think everyone who lives in that area needs to accept that there’s never going to be a quaint neighborhood bistro in that location—and people might bear in mind that it could very easily become a sports bar. I could see the State Liquor Authority having no issue with at least a 3 a.m. closing for a bar at Hudson and Canal, should some other proprietor try to go around CB1.

P.S. I removed the photos of the concept slides because I don’t think I have the rights to use them. Do a Google image search on “Brooklyn food hall” and you’ll get the right idea.

9 Comments

  1. This is demonstrably false. CB1 did not approve the 4 AM timeframe. In fact, a vigorous debate between residence and the owner mediated by the board resulted in a need for further discussion of this issue. Furthermore, no one is ever granted a 4 AM license without prior good faith operating track records. The board that night suggested a revision that it take one year for people to extend their hours any establishment.Your report clearly came from a disgruntled resident. I was there the entire four hours as well. I have no dog in this fight as I live in Civic Center but this story is simply not true. The SLA very much may approve the 4am am license but the board did try to work with the residence and the business owner to find a compromise for earlier hours

    • I’m not sure what’s false…. No one said CB1 approved 4 a.m.—only that Reilly requested it, neighbors fought it, and CB1 ended up being OK with midnight/1 a.m. Is that not accurate? Also, CB1 has indeed approved 4 a.m. for people with no track record: Haus nightclub in 2013. http://tribecacitizen.com/2013/12/12/will-haus-be-a-lounge-or-a-nightclub/

      • You are 100% accurate.
        (I was there until 10pm as well).
        Not sure how Julie came away with that interpretation of the article.
        This owner has already significantly lowered the quality of life in the surrounding neighborhood so to try to extend the hours of the nightmare to 4am by trying to slip this through is just obscene.

  2. It is absurd that CB1 places this important item at the end of the agenda. Thank heavens we had neighbors who were willing and able to stay until almost 10 pm when this evidently finally came up. Perhaps CB1 was purposefully trying to make sure neighborhood concerns were not heard.

    • I can assure you it’s not a conspiracy. CB1 recently reorganized its committees so that all liquor licenses (as well as street-event permits and sidewalk-café applications) are discussed by a Licensing Committee, as opposed to having committees for each neighborhood. (That’s why a meeting that would’ve normally ended after two hours went past four hours.) And within the Licensing agenda, CB1 seems to be rotating the neighborhoods from month to month, so last night, Tribeca came after the Seaport/Civic Center and FiDi. I don’t know how the order of items within each neighborhood is determined; in the past, CB1 often tried to get controversial matters done with first. In this case, with the application misrepresented as an extension of hours rather than as a totally new establishment with a new method of operation, nearby residents couldn’t really have known to alert CB1 in advance of their concern. Moreover, if there was any signage on the premises of 205 Hudson about the meeting, I never saw it (and I walked by yesterday).

  3. I thought seva meant apple.

  4. Tom Miller:

    282 Hudson was where we had the Holland Tunnel Blues Bar. I believe Cody’s was there recently.

    Our jukebox was legendary.

    We were never open, always closed.

Comment: