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Canz Gets 'First Date' with Community Board

By Mary Johnson | January 30, 2012 7:17am
The restaurant chain has garnered much attention for poaching servers and bartenders from rival chain Hooters.
The restaurant chain has garnered much attention for poaching servers and bartenders from rival chain Hooters.
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DNAinfo/Mary Johnson

MURRAY HILL - They finally had their first date.

The owners of Canz a Citi Roadhouse, which opened in October without a valid liquor license, and the community board that never knew the chain, known for its canned beer and well-endowed wait staff, came face to face last week.

“It’s our first date,” joked Carol Schachter, chair of the Community Board 6 committee that reviews liquor license requests during a meeting Thursday to review a new alteration license for the bar.

“Nice to finally meet you,” added Aaron Humphrey, another member of the committee.

John Roder and Tim Lorito, the owners of the Canz location on Third Avenue between 27th and 28th streets, needed the community board to approve aesthetic changes made to the bar area inside Canz.

And, despite the fact that board members once called Canz’s unannounced opening an “unpleasant surprise,” they voted unanimously to support the request.

“We all have our views of what may or may not have happened in the past,” Dubnoff told the committee before the vote. “We are not voting on that. We are voting solely on the shape of the bar.”

Canz, a chain with other locations in Long Island and Queens, opened its first Manhattan location at 380 Third Avenue back in October, replacing a restaurant called Choice Kitchen & Cocktails.

The only problem was, the restaurant didn’t have a valid liquor license at the time.

There was an existing license in place for Choice Kitchen & Cocktails, but that didn’t authorize an establishment under the name of Canz to sell alcohol on site.

The State Liquor Authority launched an investigation into the situation, but allowed the bar to continue serving liquor under the existing license for that location.

The community board, which is typically consulted when significant changes are made to liquor licenses, never heard from Canz throughout the process, despite its requests for a meeting.

So on Thursday night, board member Nicole Paikoff asked why the owners were only just now paying a visit?  

Roder explained that he was the owner of Choice Kitchen & Cocktails, the venue that used to occupy the space at 380 Third Avenue. He said he did not consult the community board because he at first intended to sell that establishment.

The prospect of Canz changed his mind.

“We needed a change,” Roder said, calling the switch from Choice to Canz a “rebranding.” Roder also highlighted his “impeccable” reputation as a bar owner in the neighborhood for the past 10 years.

Roder declined to answer questions after the meeting, claiming he had to run to another engagement, and the community board members did not press him further on the subject of the surprise opening.

Instead, they shifted the conversation to the issue of noise.

The community board members said they had stopped by Canz after it opened and saw DJ equipment right next to the front windows.

Roder assured them that equipment was already gone. The sound system and the D.J.were part of a failed attempt at a weekly karaoke night, he added.

But those façade windows were still a concern for the committee members, who worried about noise emanating from inside the bar.

“The problem is, we don’t want to turn the street into a carnival,” said Steve Dubnoff, vice chair of the committee. “So how are you addressing that issue?”

Roder wanted to keep the windows open until 11:30 or midnight. That was no good for the committee, which wanted them shut round the clock.

But Roder nixed that idea, saying it was bad for business during the summer months, when Canz will have a sidewalk café—the license for which will carry over from the restaurant’s previous incarnation as Choice.

“[Closing the windows] makes the outside café so awkward,” he explained. “And that’s the majority of my business in the summer.”

So Roder tossed out a 9 p.m. closing time for the windows, adding that the speakers in the front part of the bar would be deactivated to help with the sound. The committee countered with an offer of 8 p.m., to which Roder agreed.

The compromise paved the way for the positive — and unanimous — vote to approve the alteration license request.

That didn’t mean the owners had the board members’ wholehearted support. Dubnoff, for one, called the Canz concept something that “in my opinion, belongs underneath the Queensborough bridge.”

But there was one committee member who had something positive to say about Canz.

“Your ladies are beautiful,” said Humphrey. “I’ll give you that much.”