MANHATTAN — The 2nd Ave Deli has only been open for two months on the Upper East Side and it's already running out of room for all those famous pastrami sandwiches.
The iconic deli moved uptown this summer from its East Village venue into a corner spot on First Avenue and East 75th Street. The new space only has 75 seats, which is why the owners are now hoping to expand into the building's second floor to add another 120 seats.
After the deli's owners, Jeremy and Josh Lebewohl, bought the walk-up at 1442 First Ave. in 2009, construction hurdles delayed the opening for two years. Now, the owners could face another hurdle in expanding to the second floor, which would require a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals.
The deli's lawyer, Irving Minkin, said that the deli needs permission to expand since the building has residential tenants and was built before 1970. He said that buildings constructed after 1970 in the same zone wouldn't need to seek permission.
"They want to expand and serve the community better," Minkin said, but they're being held up "by a law that draws an arbitrary line."
The two apartments the deli would like to use for the second floor space were vacated voluntarily, said Minkin. One tenant left and the other moved into one of the four remaining apartments on the other floors.
The upstairs would likely be used for regular patrons and private parties, Minkin said.
The Lebowohls opened a 2nd Ave Deli on Third Avenue and East 33rd Street in 2007, a year after the original location closed over a rent dispute, and now they've crept even further uptown, following their client base, which has also left the Lower East Side.
"A lot of our customers live on the Upper East Side, which is one of the reasons we wanted to come here," Jeremy said at the First Avenue shop's opening. "The Upper East Side really needed a new deli. Manhattan is a funny place. People don't want to leave their neighborhood. Other than for work, they don't want to travel 30 blocks."