Brokers serve up leisure after selling lofts

From a Mediterranean tapas bar to a cowboy-themed B&B, some in the property industry dabble in hospitality

Adina Azarian, the founder and president of Adina Equities and associate broker at Keller Williams NYC, is venturing into the restaurant business after nearly 20 years in real estate. Her venue, Adalya, a Mediterranean tapas restaurant and bar at 53 Irving Place, and is slated to open this month.

As a real estate pro dipping a toe in the hospitality game, Azarian is in plentiful company. Lyon Porter, a managing director at Town Residential, opened his Western-themed bed-and-breakfast Urban Cowboy in Williamsburg in May. Stephen Siegel, global brokerage chairman at CBRE, co-owns PJ Clarke’s and the Knickerbocker restaurants, and is an investor in several others. And Douglas Elliman broker Paul Zweben, who was a chef for 18 years, keeps a link to his former life with partnerships in eight restaurants in New York City and one in Washington D.C.

“Both are service-oriented, about being a rapid responder and knowing how to get through any type of issue,” Zweben said of real estate and hospitality.

Azarian’s jump to restaurateur came after the landlord at the rental building at 53 Irving Place she brokers suggested she take a sliver of a 6,000-square-foot commercial space once home to Sal Anthony’s restaurant. So she teamed with the owner of Pierre Loti, a wine bar next door.

Porter bought the building now home to his B&B in October, and debated flipping or renting it out, but opted to create the B&B after being inspired by a trip to Maderas Village in Nicaragua.

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“I love the experience of staying in a home, which is sometimes lost when you’re in a hotel,” Porter said.

Siegel, meanwhile, has been in the hospitality game for years. “I don’t want to admit how long ago my two partners and I opened the Knickerbocker,” he joked. He also is part of the partnership that brought PJ Clarke’s out of bankruptcy in 2002, and is an investor in both Sarabeth’s and Schnippers.

Still, while his ties to both real estate and hospitality are tight — Frank Granat, who conceived the Knickerbocker was a client first, and later became his real estate partner — Siegel doesn’t believe that the two industries have much in common.

“They don’t compliment one another at all,” he said. “The restaurant business is not secure. But it’s something I find to be a lot of fun.”