Thursday, August 9, 2018
This is what's happening with the former Grassroots Tavern space on St. Mark's Place
The Grassroots Tavern closed its doors on New Year's Eve after 42 years at 20 St. Mark's Place.
Jim Stratton, the longtime principal owner of the semi-subterranean space here between Second Avenue and Third Avenue, decided to sell the business last year. (In January 2016, Stratton sold the building to Klosed Properties for a reported $5.6 million.)
Bob Precious, who operates the mini chain of Irish-style pubs called the Ginger Man (including the one on 36th Street), now owns the bar space. (CB3 OK'd his new liquor license back in December.)
Meanwhile, not much, if anything, has happened here in the lower level of the landmarked building in recent months. There were even whispers from the old guard at the Grassroots that the plans for the new venture fell through.
I asked Precious for an update.
"The bar is moving forward, albeit at an agonizingly slow pace," he told me via email.
Precious said that the bar space was in bad shape — including structural damage — when he received the keys.
"As landlords are responsible for structural work, the usual work that falls to a new tenant/operator has been held up while we wait for them to deal with their end of things," Precious said. "It has meant more than the usual amount of filings with the Department of Buildings, and, since the space is in a landmarked building, you have another layer of filings with the Landmarks Preservation Commission."
20 St. Mark's Place, known as the Daniel LeRoy House, was built in 1832. It received landmark status in 1971, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
According to public records, the DOB approved the the plan exam for the work in the lower level, which includes replacing "three existing damaged wood joists with steel I-beams, repair floor and ceiling at basement," just yesterday.
"We thought we were taking over a fully functional, operating bar needing a good clean up and some minor repairs, but are now involved in something like a restoration," Precious said. "The irony is that we liked the look and feel — to a point — of the previous bar, and had wanted to keep most of that intact."
In any event, Precious is still hoping for a opening later this fall. The location will not be another outpost of the Ginger Man — "except in a continued devotion to good beer. And whiskey and, hopefully, wine."
"The name, at the moment, is Subterranean, after the Kerouac book, more or less," he said. "If get through this permitting hell, we plan on having a real kitchen — the Ginger Man doesn't — so the food will be more interesting. Jazz once a week, like [at the] Grassroots, is also part of the plan."
Previously on EV Grieve:
New owner lined up for the Grassroots Tavern on St. Mark's Place
20 St. Mark's Place, home of the Grassroots Tavern, has been sold
Your chance to live in this historic home above the Grassroots Tavern on St. Mark's Place
Last call at the Grassroots Tavern