After 20 years of dishing out Spanish food on East Ninth Street, La Paella is hoping to reinvent itself — but first it’ll have to lock horns with the community board.
The tapas bar — one of the only non-Japanese restaurants in “Little Tokyo” — is currently closed for repainting, but that’s just the beginning of changes in store. When it reopens late next week it will be under the same name but with a different menu, reflecting a potential new owner’s vision of Cuban-American cuisine; in the future the name will probably change, and the menu will gradually shift even further away from La Paella’s traditional Spanish fare.
La Paella was founded in 1995, and Carlos Camtoverde, who was chef, took over ownership 10 years ago. Now Camtoverde is looking to partner with Vinicio (Manny) Perez De La Cruz, owner of Latin American restaurant Bungalow 31 Bar and Grill in Woodside. Camtoverde told Bedford + Bowery that he hopes De La Cruz can help revitalize the restaurant with new dishes and a full liquor license, rather than just beer and wine.
On Monday, De La Cruz asked Community Board 3’s SLA committee to support his application for a liquor license until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, but the committee failed to see the benefit of yet another restaurant with late-night hours on what is a largely residential side street. Committee members scolded De La Cruz for not bringing proof of his restaurant experience to the meeting, criticized his proposed menu (which has a heavier American influence than La Paella and includes Alfredo and barbecue dishes) and said the best they could do was offer their approval for a beer and wine license until midnight. De La Cruz could reapply later, once he was proved himself to be a responsible owner, they said.
De La Cruz’s expediter for the application, Arelia Taveras, said she would rather take the board’s denial to the State Liquor Authority, where the final decision will be made. “You’re practically shutting down businesses,” she told the committee. “You don’t own the community.”
So we’ll see whether the SLA will approve a full liquor license if De La Cruz brings more extensive documentation to hearings in the future. For now, the restaurant is forging ahead, hoping to revitalize an old standby in light of the fact that recently “business is not good,” according to Comtoverde. “I want to continue in this business,” he said, “but I want to with a liquor license.”