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Restaurateur Offers Free Cooking Classes to Neighbors in Bid for Late Hours

By Allegra Hobbs | September 13, 2016 4:50pm
 Mario Carta operates local French bistro Pardon My French.
Mario Carta operates local French bistro Pardon My French.
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Pardon My French/Facebook

EAST VILLAGE — A local restaurateur has offered free cooking classes to neighbors in the hopes of getting their blessing for a plan to serve booze at a pair of prospective eateries that would stay open until 4 a.m.

Restaurateur Mario Carta on Monday night pitched plans to open two more French spots on the same East Fourth Street block near his current operation, Pardon my French on Avenue B, requesting full liquor licenses and 4 a.m. closing times for both ventures.

But locals balked at Carta's offer of free cooking classes at one of the venues, demanding that both spots serve only wine and beer and wrap up service by midnight.

“I’m not very excited about that,” said neighbor Lauren Hill of the cooking class invite. “I’m more concerned with having my sleep.”

Members of the East 4th Street Avenues A-B Block Association showed up Monday to implore the board’s State Liquor Authority committee to enforce the beer-and-wine provision and midnight closing time, stating the block is already too noisey. 

“It’s about this corner that’s loud, it draws crowds, and this is a space that should close at a normal time — that’s what we’re asking for,” said Community Board 3 member Luke Henry, adding that he lives adjacent to one of the proposed restaurants at 235 E. Fourth St.

“I know you maybe had good intentions with your offer of cooking classes, but it seems a little cynical to offer that to the local residents at this hour.”

Ariel Palitz — a consultant and representative for Carta, as well as a former member of the SLA committee — said the offer was both sincere and the direct result of conversations with the local block association over the need for a community benefit. 

She also noted Carta and his team had already conceded to the association’s other demands, adding that the full liquor license and late hours were necessary to keep the businesses thriving in light of the neighborhood’s steep rents.

“We feel as though it would be an asset to allow someone in the space, with an experience of success and in the neighborhood, to be set up for success and to thrive there as opposed to barely surviving,” Palitz said.

Carta, who also operates French bistro Casimir on the Upper East Side — the Pardon My French space had previously held another Casimir location — plans to open the two new French restaurants just steps from each other.

One of the planned eateries, Bazar, would sit in the middle of a largely residential block at 215 E. Fourth St. and would offer a backyard seating area. The second, more spacious restaurant, a tapas-style spot called Nobody is Perfect, would sit closer to the corner of Avenue B at 235 E. Fourth St. Both plan to serve serve full entrees.

Carta's team had previously conceded to shutter windows at the restaurants by 10 p.m., have an employee monitor the sidewalk, cut off happy hour by 7 p.m., stick to background music and eschew DJs.

But locals still called for earlier closures at the eateries and more restrictive liquor licenses, and the resolutions penned by the community board’s State Liquor Authority subcommittee reflected that. 

Carta's team said Monday that it would be willing to accept beer-and-wine-only licenses, though they would not commit to earlier closing times.

In response, the board will recommend the SLA deny the modified applications for beer and wine unless they agree to close Bazar by midnight and Nobody is Perfect at midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends.

Meanwhile, Palitz said she feared the stipulations could very well smother the prospective eateries before their launch. Carta will have to decide whether he wants to ignore the board’s resolution and ask the SLA for more hours, or follow the resolution and risk his businesses' health.

“He might decide he won’t be able to make a living, and those places wind up empty,” she said. 

The subcommittee on Monday did not have enough members to constitute a quorum, so its resolution is a recommendation that will later go to a vote.

Even then, the resolution is purely advisory, and the SLA will have the final say.