Controversial Denny's Gets Green Light to Serve Alcohol Downtown

By Irene Plagianos on February 19, 2014 10:53am | Updated on February 19, 2014 2:08pm

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 The city's first Denny's will serve a full bar of alcohol when it opens in May.
Denny's Opening in May
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FINANCIAL DISTRICT — The city’s first Denny’s could soon be serving Grand Marnier with its Grand Slams.

The cheap-eats chain, slated to open in May in luxury Downtown condo building 150 Nassau St., won unanimous support for its controversial liquor license application at a heated Community Board 1 Seaport/Civic Center meeting Tuesday night.

The restaurant’s bar will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and noon to midnight on Sunday.

Denny's had originally wanted a liquor license from 8 a.m. to midnight but agreed to restricted hours in order to gain the community board's support Tuesday after residents continued to express concerns.

The win for “America’s Diner,” which leased ground-floor space at the swanky landmarked building that sits across the street from City Hall, comes after settling a $10 million lawsuit filed in June by angry building residents trying to block the restaurant from opening, according to court records.

"There was litigation, there were problems and we were not the best of friends," said Richard Rosen, a lawyer for the Denny's franchisee, Gurbox Marwah, at the meeting. "We spent a lot of time working all of this out and so when we say you can’t place an order after midnight, that wasn't just something that dropped from a tree. That was a heavily negotiated issue."

As part of the settlement, residents and Denny's had already agreed to the midnight cutoff for alcohol, but the issue at the meeting became the drinking start time.

"I'm just trying to figure out who needs to drink at 10 a.m. next to an elementary school and Pace University," said Sarah Elbatanouny, a John Street resident, complaining about Denny's proximity to the nearby Spruce Street School. "I don't know why we need this in our community."

The residents had feared that their home, which sits next to a Pace University building, would be transformed into a hangout for college students attracted by Denny's inexpensive drinks and food.

Ultimately, community board members agreed with residents that cocktails at 8 a.m. were not necessary, despite the owner's contention that people in the Financial District might want to "entertain clients" with alcoholic beverages at breakfast.

"You're hearing very strongly that there is a significant concern for something that seems to be associated with breakfast," Marco Pasanella, co-chairman of the committee, told Marwah. "And no business person I know is drinking at breakfast."

The license still needs the approval of the full CB1 board and the State Liquor Authority. The full board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 25 at 6 p.m.

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