Restaurant owners skewer city agencies, red tape

Landmarks Preservation, among others, cited as major hurdle in launching new eateries
March 25, 2014 01:08PM

In a move that underscores the hurdles business owners typically face in navigating New York City regulations, one veteran restaurateur has given up on plans to open a small wine bar on the Upper West Side.

Bob Maltas, co-owner of the New York Restaurant Group, which operates six cafes in the city, said he has abandoned plans to open a Bocca Di Bacco location at 294 Columbus Avenue at West 74th Street. Instead, Maltas has decided to forfeit upwards of $100,000 in rent security to cancel the lease, the New York Post reported. The reason for the reversal? City agencies made it pretty  much impossible to open the wine bar, he said.

Indeed, at a real estate forum held by the Real Estate Board of New York last week, Maltas claimed requests from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to preserve the facade, among other regulations, clashed with federal requirements for the restaurant to install a handicap entrance, according to the paper.

Maltas isn’t the only miffed restaurateur. Michael Weinstein of Ark Restaurants, John DeLucie of the Crown Group and Mark Birnbaum of the EMM Group have also had to cut through miles of red tape to open new locations.

DeLucie called the city’s regulations “frustrating,” but heralded recent innovations, including clearer regulations, and said success comes to those who are prepared. “There’s a time frame and a budget, and you have to know going in what you’re facing,” he said during the meeting.

Despite the welter of regulations, restaurant operators say rising rents remain the biggest “disincentive” in the New York City market. [NYP]Angela Hunt 

Correction: An earlier published version of this article misstated the owner of the New York Restaurant Group