The Tao Group clinched the provisional support of Community Board 3’s liquor license committee last night in its bid to open another high-end hotspot on the Lower East Side — this one at 199 Bowery, the former location of problematic nightclubs.
Chris Santos, a Chopped judge and chef at Beauty & Essex and The Stanton Social, said the food at his new venture will be similar to the concepts that have been successful for him in the past. “It’s going to be what I’ve always done, which is globally inspired small plates,” he told Bedford + Bowery at the meeting. Wolfe described the cuisine as “multi-ethnic street food.”
To draw diners in, the Tao Group, which operates flashy clubs like Marquee, Lavo, and Avenue, will use a gimmick familiar to those who have eaten at Beauty & Essex. The front of the establishment will be a shop, though not a thrift shop like Beauty’s storefront; the new restaurant will have a rotating theme to keep patrons interested. “We thought about doing a flower shop, a record store,” Rich Wolfe of the Tao Group. “It’s a little façade, a little shtick.” They also plan on commissioning street artists to paint murals on the walls.
But the “headline” of the night, per Wolfe, is that they are getting rid of the nightclub portion of the restaurant entirely. “We think people will come based on Chris’ reputation, Chris’ food,” he said.
They’re removing the dance floor and filling it with seating instead. The basement lounge will have seating for 100; the entire basement level will be able to accommodate 300, while the dining rooms on the first floor have a capacity of 600. There’s also a “secret garden” space in the back.
Residents of the building and representatives of the local block association said they were nervous about the operation given what they what through with The General and the adjacent club Finale. As reported by the Daily News, in March 2013 residents of 199 Bowery filed papers with the Manhattan Supreme Court, hoping to revoke their liquor licenses due to excessive noise.
“I live directly across the street. We’ve lived through hell, as you all know, for many years,” said Bowery resident Sue Williams at the meeting. “Tao is a huge organization with large clubs and large venues that attract the paparazzi. Just go to any celebrity website and you will see that the people who go there do attract the crowds.”
“They seem like very nice people, but they’re businesspeople,” she added. “They want the buzz. They want the crowds. They want it to be another destination. We don’t need another destination at Bowery and Spring Street.” Concerns were also raised about traffic congestion and parking issues.
Despite the opposition, the board agreed to support the application as long as the restaurant abides by certain stipulations, including a closing time of 1 a.m. for the first floor dining rooms on Sunday through Wednesday and 2 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The basement level will be allowed to remain open until 3 a.m. seven days a week.