Since it opened on Broome Street in late January, The Lucky Bee has been struggling to get its gas turned on in order to serve a full menu. “It was us against New York City,” said co-owner Rupert Noffs.
Yesterday, the Thai farm-to-table restaurant announced on Facebook that it had finally prevailed: “WE GOT GAS!!!”
“We didn’t know we’d have to fight to get the gas turned on for so long,” said Noffs, who along with his partner Matty Bennet is a first-time restaurateur. “We are just a small business.” Con Ed kiboshed the kitchen after it was updated with a new stove, grill and wok, Noffs explained. With no gas, the menu had to be cut in half and everything had to be cooked on electric induction and butane stoves.
Getting the gas back “could’ve been much easier,” Noffs complained. “I feel like no one communicates in this city. Between Con Edison and the Department of Buildings and the Department of Health, every single person I spoke to– my plumber, my architect and general contractor– literally laughed and said, ‘Good luck in getting anything done.’ How can that be? It’s supposed to be the greatest city in the world and sometimes it feels like we’re back on our travels in Thailand and Cambodia! Meanwhile we are paying rent! It’s crazy.”
Earlier this month, Comptroller Scott Stringer dropped by the restaurant and other Lower East Side businesses to talk about a survey of 300 local entrepreneurs conducted by his Red Tape Commission, which found that 30 percent of small businesses have to wait at least six months for city approvals, and a majority of business owners believe agencies fail to communicate expectations adequately. The survey also found that the Department of Health and the Department of Buildings respond to emails within 14 days just 58% and 51% of the time, respectively.
Stringer’s commission– made up of elected officials, members of various chambers of commerce, and entrepreneurs such as Jonathan Butler of Brooklyn Flea, among others– recommended that the city establish clearer permitting timelines, curb the use of private expeditors (seen by most who hired them as ineffective) by hiring Small Business Advocates, and improve technology so applications can be more easily filed online and tracked in real time.
Back in June, the city did pass a bill to add Small Business Advocates to the Department of Business Services, but critics argued it didn’t go far enough to ease the burden on local entrepreneurs.
According to Noffs, Stringer’s team “called Con Edison straight after our meeting, which I’m sure helped expedite the situation.”
With the cooking gas now restored, Noffs and Bennet have great plans for the restaurant. “Matty will have an oven, so will be able to braise, roast and grill. It just completely opens up the menu, like we originally designed it,” Noffs said. Lunch and delivery should be coming soon.
The Lucky Bee, 252 Broome St., bet. Ludlow and Orchard Sts., Lower East Side; 917-262-0329.