Tulum Hotspot Gitano Is Opening an Outdoor Restaurant Here

The other day, this flyer caught my eye: The vacant lot at the northeast corner of Varick and Canal has been the site of many interesting temporary endeavors (most recently an aborted outpost of Smorgasburg), and a “Community Garden style space” seemed an unlikely, but welcome, addition. Alas, I had already missed the meeting. When I asked Community Board 2 for more info, I assumed they thought I was talking about something else, because they kept saying that the matter was now in front of the State Liquor Authority. Why would a “Community Garden style space,” especially one involving the City-As-School high school, need a liquor license?

It turns out that Grupo Gitano is not only a Mexican musical act, but the operator of a popular restaurant/nightclub, Gitano, in Tulum, Mexico. Founder James Gardner has teased the Hudson Square project on Instagram, without specifying what exactly it entails. Happily, CB2’s February 2018 minutes filled in the gaps. Some highlights:

Gitano, as it will be called, will be a “fully outdoor tropical garden jungle style restaurant similar to the Principals current operation in Tulum, Mexico; this will include a Mexican restaurant and bar with one main operator Grupo Gitano, LLC with a partner retail store and a partner coffee/café; there will also be a meditation circle/reflecting pool area on the southerly portion of the lot for restaurant and coffee patrons and a separately accessed community garden styled area growing herbs and vegetables with an educational component for schools and non-profit groups in the southeast corner; alcohol service and consumption will be limited to the Restaurant and Bar area only […] The restaurant and bar area will be primarily seasonally operated May to November in 2018 and 2019 only.”

“The open gravel lot is roughly 23,465 square feet, surrounded by a fence and will be improved with temporary structures, plumbing, running water and electricity among other improvements; the interior of the lot will include many large lush tropical styled plants […] which will be brought in for each season and removed in the off season to warmer climates; the north central portion of the lot along Grand Street will house a the partner coffee area with 11 tables and 30 seats; the northeast corner will be the ‘back of house’ servicing area with fully plumbed toilets, refrigerated storage areas, a finishing kitchen; dry goods storage and garbage area; the bulk of the premises is the restaurant and central bar area which is rectangular in shape spreading east to west located in the center northern portion of the lot which is accessed through the primary entrance which is set back from Grand Street; in the restaurant bar area there are five separate seating areas, some fully covered and some located on wood platforms and some on crushed granite; there will be 400 table seats including banquet seating and 100 tables, there are 30 bar stools at the bar; the Southern portion of the premises will have a meditation circle in the Southwest corner, a reflecting pool in the center and a community garden styled area in the Southeast area.”

“The proposed hours of operation for the restaurant and bar area are Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m., additionally on any three-day weekends when national holidays occur, the premises may be open until 12 a.m. on holidays [….] The partner coffee area will be operated form 8 a.m. to 6  p.m. seven days a week; the meditation circle and reflecting pool area and community styled garden area will be operated from 8 a.m. to sunset seven days a week.”

Clearly, CB2 was concerned that Gitano could become a nuisance, and insisted that Gardner agree to many restrictions: “Music will be quiet background only consisting of music from iPod/CDs (i.e. no active manipulation of music—only passive prearranged music) as described in the stipulations and for the limited live music of three stringed instruments only as described in the stipulations, a sound study was provided and the applicant stated that they would adhere to the sound study with one exception as noted in the stipulations; there will be no other music or amplified sounds, DJs, no outside promoted events, no special events except as described, no scheduled performances, no cover fees.”

“There will be no happy hour drink pricing, no ‘boozy brunches’ or other style boozy event promotions. There will not be unlimited drink or unlimited food and drink specials. There will be no ‘bottle service’ or the sale of bottles of alcohol except for the sale of bottles of wine products. There will be no screens, projectors or TV’s. There will be no heaters for patrons or staff utilized at any time. There will be no dancing.”

“The license sought is for a two-year period only […] and any structures built on the site will be temporary in nature only.”

“A catering company will be contracted to produce 70% of the food offsite. Any cooking done on site will primarily utilize electric vapor cooking to minimize smells and odors. There may be one charcoal/wood grill no larger than 3 feet x 5 feet. There will be no use of any smokers or significant charcoal such that excessive odors or smoke are created.”

Some photos of the Tulum establishment, along with its dinner menu:



  1. Great idea.

  2. I still can’t believe they razed that beautiful old bank building down to the ground only to leave the lot vacant for so many years. Insanity.

    • as a resident of Murray Street, I know how much quicker and easier it is to knock something old and beautiful down than it is to replace it.

  3. how do you run an outdoor restaurant in NYC, where it’s freezing (or boiling) most of the year? Tropical style plants can only stay out in NYC weather about half the year. So this would be a pop up sort of thing? The meditation pool could make a nice skating rink during the winter months…

  4. Will, ICYMI, “The restaurant and bar area will be primarily seasonally operated May to November in 2018 and 2019 only.”

  5. Any contact information for the Gitano team? Would love to get our school involved in the garden/educational component. Thanks Erik.