Plans Dropped for North Moore Eatery

At a CB1 meeting last month, 39 North Moore Street resident Anne Roy stands with fellow opponents of a planned restaurant in her building. Photos by Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Apr. 01, 2013

Partners in a planned Mexican rest­aurant at 39 North Moore St., facing fierce opposition from neighbors, have lost their appetite for the project.

“We’re looking at other alternatives, most likely in that area,” Santiago Perez told the Trib late last month. “But so far we haven’t found one that we will pursue for sure. Our options are open, and we’re looking at other spaces that might be received better.”

Perez and partner Santiago Gomez faced a slew of opponents when they ap­peared last month before Com­munity Board 1’s Tribeca Com­mittee to request a liquor license for the ground floor of a 10-unit condominium building. The meet­ing capped two months of neighborhood organizing against the proposed eatery, which was to be associated with a celebrated Mexican chef.

Gomez and Perez tried to assure the committee that they were not bringing Taco Bell-like cuisine to the street, going so far as to display a large photomontage of stereotypical Mexican restaurant dishes that they would not be serving.

“People are used to Mexican food being something like this,” said Gomez, pointing to colorful pictures of enchiladas, burritos and tacos that likely set some mouths watering at the long dinner-hour meeting. “Fast food or food that is not healthy and is not something that creates a high atmosphere.”

Another chart showed where Pujol, the Mexico City restaurant of their intended chef, Enrique Olvera, ranked in the San Pellegrino hierarchy of the world’s top eateries. “As you can see, our chef is number 36,” Perez boasted. “So we want our rest­aurant to be on this same list.”

But the neighbors insisted that the establishment’s nationality was not the issue. They came with visual aids of their own, such as a large blowup of the entrance (similar to the one at left) showing the proximity of the pro­­posed restaurant en­trance to the residential entrance, and a map indicating all the other liquor-licensed bars and restaurants in the vicinity.

“You have a lot of establishments on the avenues, places to eat and drink, and in the middle you’ve got quiet residential streets,” said Anne Roy, a 39 North Moore resident who spoke for the opposition. “This is what makes our community work.”

The committee voted unanimously to oppose the liquor license and, according to some residents, Gomez and Santiago had already dropped the notion of a restaurant at 39 North Moore by the time they were out of the room.

“I don't take anything they say at face value,” Roy later said. “But they did say they were looking for a more appropriate location.”

Opposition from the residents, who had threatened to block the restaurant in court, was apparently not the only incentive for the partners to look elsewhere.

According to Stephen Corelli, owner of the commercial space, a more practical issue played a role in their decision.

“There were concerns about the venting and they were unable to come up with a solution that was practical given the context of what was going on,” said Corelli, who bore considerable enmity from his upstairs neighbors over his decision to rent the space to a restaurant.

As a result, Corelli noted, “I would definitely say that would preclude another restaurant going there in the future.”

“I lost my tenant and I spent 10 grand drafting a lease,” added the owner, an architect who converted the building in the early ’90s. “And I felt bad that people were so upset about it.”