Community Board to Koi: “I Don’t See How We Could Approve Something Like This”


Last night’s Community Board 3 SLA and DCA Licensing Committee meeting was a predictably lengthy one: Over the course of four-plus hours, the committee considered some 19 items on the agenda.

Some highlights:

Motorino’s request to operate seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. in the former Una Pizza Napoletana space was quickly approved, though committee chair Alexandra Militano noted that “at this point, we’re falling over pizza places.”

Mason Dixon, the Essex Street bar currently embroiled in a longstanding lawsuit with members of its building’s co-op (who contend that the co-op’s developer promised there would be a store in the ground-floor space, not a bar), was also approved for a license renewal with stipulations, despite the presence of several tenants who spoke out against the bar’s noise and “intimidation” by the its owner, Rob Shamlian. Shamlian countered that “the bar can’t be any more soundproofed” and that the “unfounded complaints” were from tenants who have been “non-stop up my butt all the time.”

Guapo Bodega, the new restaurant from the owners of Stanton Social Club, had a far less contentious time winning approval for a full liquor license for its new “tapas-style steakhouse” up the block from Mason Dixon on Essex Street.

The most anticipated hearing of the night was for Koi, the upscale sushi chain with plans to open a new outpost in the old Salvation Army men’s shelter on the Bowery. Somewhat surprisingly, it was an anti-climactic affair. While members of the famously outspoken Fifth Street Block Association did show up to voice their opposition, everyone managed to remain civil, perhaps because the committee didn’t give them any reason to get upset. Despite reassurances from the restaurant’s representatives, who included owners Nick and Dipu Haque, that their “name brand” restaurant would create “a positive reputation,” the committee took only 20 minutes to vote to deny Koi a license.

Board members expressed skepticism that the restaurant would bring business to the neighborhood, which is already plagued with traffic and noise problems from the other bars, restaurants, and hotels that have sprouted along the Bowery. “Your location is absolutely a destination location,” said Militano, noting that the Bowery was hardly comparable to the chain’s other locations in Midtown, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. “Realistically, it could be anywhere. City employees like me are not going to be going to your restaurant.”

Though Koi’s representatives countered that their proposed 6,000-square-foot, 250-seat restaurant was the only business that could afford to open in the $15 million space — which, according to his real estate agent, Dipu Haque has already purchased — committee members expressed hope that something else — a theater, maybe — would open instead.

“This is not going to be a restaurant for the neighborhood,” board member David McWater reiterated. “I don’t see how we could approve something like this.”