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LIC restaurant group to host tasting party
By Bill Parry

The Long Island City Restaurant Association is less than a month old and the owners involved are already working on their first event.

On Nov. 30, they are putting together LIC Party. Six of the restaurants will prepare food and drink samplers and customers can hop from one eatery to another.

“It’s kind of a pub crawl but with food,” said restaurateur Rebecca Trent. “Right after Thanksgiving nobody will want to cook, so it’s a way to get out and try our restaurants.”

It is the type of self-promotion Trent had in mind when she came up with the idea a couple years ago during the Taste of LIC. That event, held each June in Gantry State Park, drew a record crowd of 1,000 who sampled the food from 50 restaurants last summer.

“I figured we could do this more often as a way of community building,” said Trent, who owns a restaurant and comedy club called The Creek and the Cave, at 10-93 Jackson Ave. “It’s also a way of guiding media perception. Everyone writes that we’re the next Brooklyn but we’re not — we’re Queens and we want to be Queens because we love Queens.”

The dozen restaurants taking part so far are hoping to have a united front in dealing with the city Department of Health.

“I don’t mind rules, but it’s the inconsistency that makes me crazy,” said Doris Nowilla Suda, manager at The Riverview, at 201 50th Ave. “We all share the same challenges and frustrations.”

Jeff Blath, owner of the Alobar, at 46-42 Vernon Blvd., agreed, adding, “I believe in the whole strength in numbers thing.”

His restaurant celebrated its second anniversary Thursday and it recently won Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand prize for the second year in a row, a designation that denotes good cuisine at a reasonable price. The exposure did not help Blath in a recent battle with Community Board 2 for the use of a backyard outdoor space. When Alobar opened Blath agreed not to use the outdoor space because the noise would disturb his neighbors. When Long Island City was rezoned to allow cafe seating Blath claimed that he needed the outdoor space to compete with other area restaurants that were offering outdoor seating. Community Board 2 rejected his request,

“I don’t think we got a fair shake with that,” Blath said. “I think uniting with the others may put the lean on the community board. If we showed up as a group and listed our demands, they’d have to listen to us.”

Trent’s motives were less political and more business-based. At their first meeting at the end of October, three of the owners realized they shared a counterfeit money problem.

“They compared notes and identified the guy and wouldn’t let him in their restaurants anymore,” Trent said.

The Long Island City Restaurant Association also acts as a support group.

“Look, we’re all owners who paid to have a job that makes us crazy 24/7,” Trent said. “Just when you think you’re losing your mind, you can share your problems with like-minded people.”

Gianna Cerbone-Teoli agreed, saying, “I actually like these people. A lot of businesses don’t support each other.”

The owner of Manducatis Rustica, at 46-33 Vernon Blvd., said “we need to work together and help each other out and that will help us forge our own identity, an LIC identity.”

The association is likely to grow as well.

“We had 12 at our first meeting, but that’s because of scheduling problems,” Blath said. “LIC is a big area with a lot of restaurants and everyone is welcome to join us.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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