Board 2 Mulls M. Wells/P.S. 1 Eatery Plans
A joint venture between one of Long Island City’s most celebrated new restauranteurs and its stalwart cultural center was welcomed by residents as well as Communtiy Board 2, which voted to approve its liquor license during a special hearing last Tuesday, Apr. 24 at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Hunters Point.
P.S. 1 Chief Operating Officer Peter Katz, M. Wells co-owner Sarah Obraitis and attorney Alan Gardner (representing them both) came before Board 2 to discuss their joint application for a liquor license for the museum’s cafeteria, which M. Wells will run.
M. Wells will also become the caterer for events at P.S. 1, located at 22-25 Jackson Ave., such as fundraisers and the popular summer Weekend Warmup events. Gardner explained that while P.S. 1 had in the past asked for temporary one-day liquor licenses, with M. Wells on board they are now looking for a full license.
The cafeteria portion will utilize the center’s terrace area, which Gardner likened to a sidewalk café, while the larger events will use the larger courtyard.
To start, the new restaurant, which will seat about 55, will match its hours to P.S. 1’s, meaning that it will operate Monday to Friday five days a week, opening earlier on weekends for brunch.
Obraitis-whose partner in M. Wells is Hugue Dufour-hopes to make up for the loss of dinner service for the time being with the catering opportunities, she told Board 2.
“There are big fund-raising opportunities that I don’t think the museum has been able to tap into,” Obraitis noted. “It’s an experience I think we’ll relish.”
However, according to Katz, if the marriage of M. Wells and P.S. 1 works, “dinner may be in the future.”
The space is set to open in about seven weeks; customers won’t have to enter the museum to eat at the restaurant.
While Board 2 supported the plans-“I’d like to see eventually that you’re so successful that the museum is open later,” Chairperson Joseph Conley would tell the applicants- the advisory body still had concerns to address.
According to City Services Committee Chairperson Patrick O’Brien, his group had recommended to P.S. 1 to run no more than one event a week, and to have the exterior courtyard space close at 10 from Sunday to Thursday and on midnight on Friday and Saturday.
They also asked the museum to provide “more and appropriate security,” especially at the Warmup events.
Obraitis and Katz both asked the board for flexibility.
Katz pointed out that currently, the museum cannot hold more than one event a month, but Gardner would point out that fund-raising events happen on a seasonal basis.
P.S. 1’s new, recently-built entrance on Jackson Avenue also gives the center a better ability to control crowds, Katz said.
“Our guests, our followers, fans, tourists, they’re not obnoxious and loud to begin with,” Obraitis stated. “They’re really sophisticated, fun, normal, quiet, sometimes odd people.”
She also pointed out that the center’s construction-P.S. 1 is a former school building-prevents noise from leaking out to area streets.
“We would just like the flexibility, given the protection of this environment that we’re in, to ask you to trust us and lend us your confidence to say ‘hey, we will conduct our business appropriately,'” she implored Board 2.
Several residents spoke in favor of M. Wells, whose prior location, at 21-17 49th Ave., was celebrated by food critics, local media outlets and Long Island City denizens alike.
The most impassioned plea came from Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, the owner of nearby restaurant Manducatis Rustica. Her parents’ restaurant, Manducatis, is across the street from P.S. 1.
“We need to start growing new businesses,” she stated. “If I worry about myself, coming from Long Island City, you have nobody else coming in.”
“I welcome you with open arms,” she told Obraitis.
Board 2 Chairperson Joseph Conley told the Times Newsweekly on Monday, Apr. 30 that the body later encouraged the applicants to extend their proposed license until 1 a.m., so that the restaurant could expand its hours if P.S. 1 found it amenable in the future.
A liquor license application for M. Wells Crescent, LLC at 43-15 Crescent St., was postponed. This application is for a steakhouse to be run by M. Wells.
Casa Enrique, at 5-48 49th Ave. in Long Island City is the second outpost run by Café H Inc., the first being Café Henri, at 10-10 50th Ave.
According to Winston Kulok, the café’s owner, the new venture serves “really authentic Mexican,” and has been open for about a month.
The 35-seat restaurant will include a small nine-seat bar as well as four to six tables in the rear yard, which will close at 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and at midnight on Friday and Saturday.
The yard, he would later note, is an enclosed space 15 feet wide and 15 feet long.
“This is a restaurant where people eat primarily,” said Kulok. “I think we’re responsible operators.”
“We’d be foolish to invest money in an operation that would get everybody very angry,” he would later add.
According to Conley, Casa Enrique’s application was approved with restrictions on the use of the rear yard.