The Freemans Gang Is Opening a Classic American Diner on the Bowery


Last night’s Community Board 3 SLA & DCA committee meeting was a surprisingly swift affair, owing in part to the large number of applications that were struck from the agenda. Perhaps the most noteworthy development? Taavo Somer and his Freemans gang are opening a “classic American diner” in the old Kelley & Ping space on the Bowery and East 2nd Street.

Somer plans to fully utilize the bi-level space, creating a 63-seat restaurant with a 38-foot counter on the first floor and a 19-foot bar on the second. His application met with a show of support from members of the community, who bemoaned the current state of the abandoned restaurant, which has become a haven for drug deals and muggings. One of the most vocal supporters was the building’s sole tenant, a single mother with small children. When the board asked if she thought noise from the restaurant would be a problem, she responded that “between the drugs and the loitering, I don’t think it could get any worse.”

The other big highlight came courtesy of Jesse Hartman, the would-be restaurateur who’s trying to turn the former Isabella’s Oven space at 365 Grand Street into Grand Park, a fine-dining establishment that will also include a bar. Hartman’s plans for the restaurant, which he wants to “feel like Florent or Odeon, with a little something for everybody,” were approved by the board back in June, but since he still has yet to sign a lease with the Seward Park co-op board, he reappeared to get an extension on the approval. Despite some vociferous opposition from some Seward Park residents, the board reiterated its approval; Hartman hopes to sign his lease soon.

Also of note:

— The former Persimmon space on East 10th Street is going to become a “rustic European” restaurant with a 17-foot bar. The board declined to approve the owner’s application for a beer and wine license transfer until he met with members of the block association.

— The former Lava Gina space at 116 Avenue C will become, appropriately enough, Vibrations, a tavern whose owner also owns two radiology clinics.

— Kanoyama easily won approval for a restaurant wine license in its newly expanded space, which includes a raw bar with seating for eight.

— The Pinalto City Restaurant, a taqueria serving sandwiches, will open in the old Clinton Restaurant space at 293 East Houston Street.