Brunch wars: Tribeca condo owners vow to block new eatery over sidewalk seating

Photo by Tequila Minsky Tribeca restaurateur Tom Galis met unexpected resistance from residents of this corner building at Greenwich and Laight Sts. where he hopes to open a new restaurant.
Photo by Tequila Minsky
Tribeca restaurateur Tom Galis met unexpected resistance from residents of this corner building at Greenwich and Laight Sts. where he hopes to open a new restaurant.


Tribeca homeowners’ stubborn resistance to a well-liked restaurateur hoping to move into the ground floor of their Greenwich St. condominium building may backfire on them, according to local leaders.

Residents of the Sterling Mason condominiums at the corner of Greenwich and Laight Sts. lined up against Tom Galis, owner of another Greenwich St. restaurant, The Greek, at a meeting of Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee on Sept. 14 to oppose his request for a late-night liquor license. But even when he quickly agreed to stop serving even before midnight, the monied mob then went after his plans for a sidewalk café — which he says he needs to make the new venture viable.

That led one committee member to remind the residents that Galis didn’t really need their green light to get a sidewalk-seating permit — which the city would likely rubber-stamp regardless of local misgivings — and that if they drive off a proven good neighbor like him, the next person who wants to move in may not be so willing to accommodate their concerns.

“Everybody should be clear, people come to us and say they don’t like something, and it may get shot down,” said committee member Adam Malitz. “They may walk away, but someone who is less friendly may come.”

Even the condo residents’ de-facto spokeswoman at the meeting later said she thought her side’s vitriol went a bit overboard.

“This is getting totally blown out of proportion,” said Robin Allstadt, a resident at the condos. “People are being so mean about this situation, and all I wanted to do about this is sit and have a meaningful conversation about a 4 o’clock closing.”

In fact, Allstadt began her remarks that night saying that she likes how Galis runs his existing Greenwich St. restaurant.

“This is not about The Greek,” said. “I happen to be obsessed with The Greek. I love The Greek.”

But Allstadt followed her praise by reciting a list she had compiled of other area restaurants — such as American Cut, China Blue, and Loconda Verde, among others — which closed by 11:30 p.m. at the latest, citing that as a community standard that the northern Tribeca residents expected Galis to abide by, rather than the 4 a.m. permit he initially requested.

“We fully believe that these hours will bring unwanted noise and late-night disturbance, increase in taxi and car traffic on cobblestone streets,” she said.

Over the course of the following half-hour, the residents were able to argue Galis down to a 10:30 p.m. weekday and 11:30 p.m. weekend closing time — despite board guidelines that generally permit 2 a.m. closing times on main streets such as Greenwich St.

Galis accepted the 11:30 p.m. closing with the caveat that he would like to have his potential neighbors’ approval for a sidewalk café, which he envisioned wrapping around the corner of Greenwich and Laight Sts, and which he was adamant would either make or break the prospective business.

“I can work with that [closing time], but I need you to work with me on the sidewalk café,” Galis said at the meeting.

But that assertion provoked cries of “Never!” and “Not a chance!” from the riled-up crowd, and residents vowed to oppose Galis with whatever resources they could muster if he chose to pursue the street seating.

“If it’s essential for him and his business to have a sidewalk café, he should know that we would oppose any kind of sidewalk café as strongly as possible — with lawyers, with money, with anything we can do,” said one Sterling Mason resident at the meeting.

Galis then offered further concessions, saying he’d limit his sidewalk café to Greenwich St. only — but even that didn’t placate the cranky condo owners. That impasse is what prompted Malitz to warn the locals that if Galis, who has not yet signed a lease for the location, decided to walk away from the venture, then a less amenable entrepreneur might come to take his place.

The Tribeca Committee ultimately decided to postpone voting on the matter in order to give locals and Galis an opportunity to find some common ground and work out a list of stipulations to be attached to Galis’s liquor license application that would codify any concessions made on the part of the restaurateur.

Meanwhile, Galis said there are no hard feelings on his part, despite what he saw as a lack of experience on the part of Sterling Mason residents in dealing with new businesses on the community board level.

“I think they were speaking from their heart without understanding how things work,” the restaurateur said.

In any case, at least Galis made a good impression on Allstadt.

“Tom couldn’t have been any nicer last night,” she said.

And in light of recent events Downtown, a reflective Allstadt was able put the prospect of Galis’s new restaurant in perspective.

“There are so many worse problems to have in the world than this lovely man coming downstairs,” she said.