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Popular Inwood Nightspot Mamajuana Plans to Open on Lower East Side

By Patrick Hedlund | September 30, 2010 2:00pm
The Inwood restaurant Mamajuana is looking to expand into the Lower East Side.
The Inwood restaurant Mamajuana is looking to expand into the Lower East Side.
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DNAinfo/Carla Zanoni

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — The popular Inwood restaurant Mamajuana is looking to bring its Dominican flavor to the nightlife-rich Lower East Side.

The nightspot is currently working to finalize a deal to take over the space at 107 Norfolk St., which is formerly home to the music venue Tonic, said Mamajuana owner Victor Osorio.

The original Inwood location has proven a big draw for locals, but it has not been without controversy.

Neighbors have complained about noise and disturbances stemming from the restaurant, forcing upper Manhattan's Community Board 12 to address the issue at recent meetings.

Osorio said he hopes to sign a lease with the landlord within the week, and then begin a full build-out of the nearly 4,000-square-foot space for a tentative early-2011 opening.

"We didn't find any Latin restaurants [on the Lower East Side], any decent space where someone can come and have a good drink, good food and a great atmosphere," said Osorio, of why he chose the neighborhood over another potential address in the Meatpacking District.

"We thought downtown would be a great spot to do it."

The four-year-old Mamajuana on Dyckman Street has become a favorite of locals, featuring upscale Latin cuisine and everything from Flamenco performances to a hookah night.

But its popularity has also brought problems, with neighbors complaining of patrons spilling out onto the streets and creating quality-of-life disturbances — an issue familiar to many Lower East Siders.

At the Norfolk Street space, Mamajuana will seek approval for a full liquor license from Community Board 3 to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., Osorio noted, which is commonplace in the area but has posed problems in Inwood.

"We'll see what our clientele wants us to do down there," he said regarding hours of operation at the new address.

Osorio added that Mamajuana will employ security both inside and outside the nightspot, and that he will also soundproof the space to keep noise from spreading outside.

Mamajuana's Inwood concept is also planned for the two-level Lower East Side location, which will be split between and upstairs seating area and downstairs kitchen, Osorio explained.

"There's nothing compared to what we serve," he said of the heavy competition his restaurant will face downtown, adding that the space's "colonial" aesthetic includes bricks from the Dominican Republic. The new restaurant will also mirror the Inwood location in terms of menu and price point, he added.

He expects his downtown debut go smoother than it sometimes has in Inwood, where the burgeoning nightlife scene has not been greeted well by some neighbors.

"Down there, from what I see, there's a lot of nightlife activity," he said of the Lower East Side. "So we're not expecting to have any problems with the community."