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New High-End Mexican Restaurant Faces Opposition From Neighbors in TriBeCa

TRIBECA — They have the backing of one of the world’s best chefs, but a couple of Mexican restaurateurs couldn’t get the support of Community Board 1’s TriBeCa Committee.

The committee unanimously shot down the liquor license for a proposed high-end Mexican restaurant at 39 North Moore St. Wednesday night, after fired up residents and neighbors of the building packed into the meeting to lodge a series of complaints about possible noise, smoke and traffic — and even threatened to sue if the eatery did eventually open.

“This is smack-dab in the middle of a quiet, family block,” said Ann Roy, a resident of the building. “It’s plainly just a terrible location. It doesn’t belong on the street and it doesn’t belong in our building.”

The restaurant owners, Santiago Gomez and his partner Santiago Perez, said they only had the best intentions in mind for the building and the neighborhood with their 70-seat, high-class eatery.

Renowned chef Enrique Olvera, whose Mexico City restaurant, Pujol, has been named one of the 50 best in the world, would split time between Mexico and New York to run the as-yet-unnamed place, the partners said.

“This is not a place that screams, ‘Let's get margaritas. Let’s get drunk,'” Perez said. “We want this to be a special, elegant place with some of the best food.”

Residents of the quiet side street said they didn’t doubt the restaurant would be great — it just had no place in their building.

Members of the building’s condo board said, if necessary, they would sue the property’s owner. They believe renting the ground-floor space to a restaurant would violate their condo board's rules. 

The restaurateurs, who have not yet signed a lease for the space, had postponed their first scheduled meeting before the board in February after fielding a series of objections from the residents.

Community Board 1 was also flooded with complaints.

After listening to a few of the impassioned residents, CB1 members felt they had heard enough.

“This is an inappropriate location for a restaurant,” said Peter Braus, chairman of CB1's TriBeCa Committee, before the entire committee voted against the license. “I’m sure it will be fantastic someplace else."

After the meeting, the defeated restaurateurs said they were not sure how they would proceed. They could still take their liquor license application to the State Liquor Authority, which has the final decision on licenses, but the community board's advisory disapproval would likely hurt their chances.

Plus, they would have to be in a building where at least some of the residents don't want them.

“We're disappointed," Gomez said after the heated meeting. "We're still deciding what we'll do."