Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Last night, Frank Prisinzano, who owns EV Italian empire Frank, Lil' Frankie's and Supper, came before the CB3/SLA committee with his plans to turn the former Graceland grocery at Second Street and Avenue A into what he described as fast-food Italian.
Nearly 75 minutes of serious high drama later, the committee was deadlocked in its decision to grant Prisinzano a beer and wine license.
Prisinzano started with his concept. He called it "a simple Italian cafeteria" and "quick, easy volume." Menu items would range from $5.95 to $10.95... most food would be prepped to serve in a hurry, with no more than a five or 10-minute wait. People could be in and out for a meal in 45 minutes or less.
And there would be a separate to-go kitchen. And it would be all eco-friendly. With plenty of soundproofing, per the lease, which he has yet to sign. "I want to give the community inexpensive Italian," he said. "I'm hoping this becomes a neighborhood staple like my other places." And! "This is not a nightclub. This is not a bar."
In total, the new eatery would accommodate 190 people, including 75 seats in a sidewalk cafe along the 50-plus feet of Avenue A storefront. This space is currently twice the size of any one of his other eateries.
And he had two last things to say (for now)... "We need help with our fast food in this country. This is my attempt at it."
Then he went in for the kill. Prisinzano said the landlord is currently weighing three other offers: A bank, a 7-Eleven and a bank.
Then some residents spoke. A common theme emerged: Hell. One longtime resident said Avenue A between Third Street and Houston is hell Thursday through Saturday nights. "We hear people vomit," the resident said. "It's a little row of hell." Most residents who spoke mentioned Aces & Eights as the main culprit.
The resident said that she and some of her neighbors have all learned a dance "where we pray for rain [on weekends] to douse the crowds."
It was also mentioned that Supper has had issues with crowd control on Second Street in the past. Prisinzano said that he is getting more "militant" about crowd control. For instance, he has installed video cameras outside all three of his restaurants so that he can monitor the situation from his computer. He said that he can discipline the host or hostess if he or she doesn't help keep the crowds in check. "Now I have accountability," he said. "Big Brother is in the sky."
Susan Stetzer, district manager of CB3 and a nearby resident, also spoke out against the planned restaurant.
"It will just be hell," she said. "I don't see the benefit" for the community. There was some back and forth. She kept with the hell theme. "We just cannot take more people on that street. It's hell." And! "We're begging you not to have another [bar] on this block. It's just hell."
Prisinzano reiterated that this space won't be a bar; that he will serve inexpensive food and will be a good neighborhood. As for this stretch of Avenue A, he said "that block is full of shitty bars." (Perhaps he didn't realize that committee member David McWater, who was sitting a few feet from him, owns several bars on that block.)
So, he was pretty much approve this or, "otherwise you're going to get a bank or a 7-Eleven. Your choice."
Stetzer said that she was tired of people telling her and other residents what will be good for the neighborhood.
At some point Prisinzano said, "I'm not Aces & Eights."
Eventually committee chair Alexandra Militano threatened to make Prisinzano and Stetzer leave the meeting if they spoke up one more time.
There was more debate among the committee members. Militano said that she hasn't heard the end of it from residents ever since the committee approved the transfer of Aces & Eights from Mo Pitkins. There was an argument about motions to pass along to the State Liquor Authority between Militano and McWater, who told her, "I was dealing with the SLA while you were still in law school."
In the end, 75 minutes later, the committee was deadlocked in their vote. Prisinzano looked incredulous. The whole thing will be kicked to the full CB3 meeting on June 22
Previously on EV Grieve:
"All uses considered" at former Graceland
Owners of Frank-Lil' Frankie's-Supper taking over the former Graceland space