LOWER EAST SIDE — The owners of a controversial Mexican restaurant slated to take over the shuttered storefront of a beloved Chinese bakery won the community board’s tentative support for a full liquor license after a lengthy debate about the unwanted influx of new boozy businesses.
Community Board 3 voted Tuesday night to conditionally approve a liquor license for upcoming taco joint Gracias Mama — replacing the Golden Carriage Bakery at 162 E. Broadway — only if the operators stick to a long list of stipulations to help cut down on noise and sidewalk congestion.
The vote came after many locals expressed concerns that serving alcohol would still harm the existing community.
“The noise and the traffic would be disrespectful to the residents in the area,” said neighbor Christina Zhang.
In addition to concerns about the spot drawing rowdy drinkers, residents voiced fears that the spot’s takeout window — formerly a newsstand that also sold coffee and pastries — will cause streetside diners to clog up the sidewalk, adding to the foot traffic from a nearby bus stop.
But restaurateurs Koorosh Bakhtiar and Nima Garos assured community members they will soundproof the establishment, close all doors and windows after 10 p.m. to keep the noise inside, and will give to-go diners buzzers to prevent loitering around the window.
The operators also agreed to the community’s request that they close at 12 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, dialing back their original request for a 4 a.m. close time.
Still, several locals reiterated concerns — voiced in fliers plastered around the neighborhood last week, as first reported by Bowery Boogie — that the restaurant is part of a disturbing trend of new restaurants and bars replacing neighborhood staples that better serve the longtime community.
“That corner was home to a bakery and newsstand for many years, and served the community for a long time,” said Pamela Yeh of the Orchard Street Block Association, who gathered 192 signatures from neighbors opposing the restaurant. “It may not have been the most scenic corner, but it certainly was vibrant and had mom and pop businesses.”
A handful of neighbors spoke in support of the operation, saying the joint serving $3 tacos would be a welcome, affordable addition to the neighborhood rather than a nuisance.
“People talk about gentrification and all that stuff, but they’re not doing a high-end restaurant,” said Jeremy Yang, who lives in the building above the storefront. “I really do feel like they’re trying to do right by the community.”
In addition to demanding the operators abide by the noise and crowd-restricting rules, the board tacked on a clause to its resolution asking the State Liquor Authority to measure the distance between the spot and a nearby church to make sure it is in accordance with a law forbidding the sale of liquor within 200 feet of a house of worship.
Ultimately, the SLA will decide whether the restaurant gets its license, and may or may not take into account the community board’s recommendations.