Odds Appear Stacked Against Wine Bar at 25 CPW
by Avi - June 8, 2010 at 11:48 pm -
A Community Board 7 committee will decide on Wednesday night whether to approve a liquor license application for a wine bar and cafe at 25 Central Park West. The fight over the bar has already taken on an epic quality.
(Story UPDATED after vote)
The wine bar, which we first wrote about a couple of weeks ago, would go into the ground floor space at 25 CPW at 62nd Street. That space used to be a Gristede’s and now houses a temporary art gallery. But community opposition from two of the most well-connected buildings in the city has built into a fever pitch. 25 Central Park West, a landmark building known as The Century, and 15 Central Park West, home of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, have both aligned against the proposal. Each building has hired its own lobbying group to fight the proposal. The bar was originally called the Century Cafe, but is now being called the Central Park West Cafe.
At least 400 people have signed petitions to stop the proposal and top politicians in the area (all the way up to Borough President Scott Stringer) have already expressed their skepticism, said Jake Dilemani, a government relations associate at the Parkside Group, which is representing condo owners at 25 Central Park West. Lawyers are scouring zoning rules to find a way to derail the project.
The community board’s vote is nonbinding but important. The State Liquor Authority makes the final call.
Greg Hunt, who is bringing the proposal, says he just wants to open a relaxed and sophisticated art deco wine bar with wood paneling and portraits of Ethel Merman and other former residents of The Century. Check out his new website, which compares the bar to Cafe des Artistes. He says his target clientele is over 35. But to make the bar profitable he is keeping it open every night until 3 a.m. That, he realizes, kind of hurts his case. Because do you know a lot of people over 35 who stay out until 3 a.m.? Yeah, us neither.
Hunt says that because he’s planning to keep the bar small and intimate he’s going to need to keep it open very late (and open as early as 9 a.m. on the weekends) to bring in enough money. People coming from Lincoln Center and the AMC Loews movie theater on 68th Street could drop by for some wine after a late show, he says.
Opponents, who have their own website, say the 3 a.m. closing and 15-foot bar make them think the “wine bar” sounds more like a nightclub or something you’d find in the meatpacking district.
“That’s a huge issue,” Dilemani said. “Opening 7 days a week until 3 a.m. is completely out of line with a residential neighborhood.”
Hunt, who has hired his own lobbying group, is trying other tactics to try to make friends in the building. The bar will serve take-out exclusively to residents of 25 Central Park West. But it’s hard to imagine that little carrot will change anyone’s mind.
“The odds are against me,” Hunt said.
(Rendering via Central Park West Cafe website. Flickr photo of bottles by ldanderson)