By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The owner of the new Tivoli restaurant on Third Avenue has agreed to remove the word “bar” from his signage in exchange for the support of the community in his application for a full liquor license at the incoming establishment.
Owner Gus Kassimis voluntarily agreed to the change last Thursday at a meeting held by Community Board 6’s Business Affairs and Street Activities committee, which voted to approve the application.
Kassimis also agreed that the restaurant, which is replacing the popular Lyric Diner, would not have a stand-up bar. He also said in his application that the business would be closing by midnight every day, which quelled neighborhood anxieties about the place’s potential to become rowdy college student hang-out.
Members of the Gramercy Park Block Association were at the meeting last week to express their concerns about the possible consequences of a full liquor license for another business in the neighborhood.
“As long as anybody knows, Lyric has been there basically forever and they ran the business without a liquor license for a long time,” GPBA Quality of Life Committee Chair Sean Brady said. “When they applied for a full liquor license in 2013, that’s when we got engaged. It’s nothing about the diner or the operator, it’s about the kids in the neighborhood.”
Brady and GPBA president Arlene Harrison expressed particular concern about the name of the new restaurant, Tivoli, especially because signage was recently installed that said “café-bar-grill.”
“If you’re serving liquor and if (students) see ‘bar’ on the sign, they’re in there,” Brady said. “You might as well put a sign up that says ‘NYU student discount.’”
Kassimis initially cited the expense of the sign as a reason for not wanting to remove the word but Harrison noted that it could also be costly if the community didn’t support the new restaurant and Kassimis ultimately agreed to the change. He noted that they put up the signage because they were advised to provide photos of the business for their application with the State Liquor Authority.
Tivoli will have a diner counter similar to Lyric, Kassimis said, but he agreed that the restaurant would not have a stand-up bar, meaning that patrons can only order drinks while seated and through table service.
Kassimis has been the owner of Gemini Diner on Second Avenue at East 35th Street for the last 19 years.
“I saw an opportunity to expand and decided to go ahead,” he said of the space on Third Avenue. He noted that Gemini has a full liquor license and the primary reason he gave for wanting a full liquor license at the new restaurant is to offer cocktails for brunch on the weekends. He added that Gemini has never had a violation from the SLA since he’s been in charge.
“Gemini is a good neighbor,” committee member Paige Judge said. “There have never been any issues either under (Kassimis’s) ownership or the prior ownership since the place has been open, since 1981.”
In an emailed newsletter this week, the GPBA voiced its support of the new business following the compromises from Kassimis.
“With these conditions agreed upon, the GPBA was satisfied the space will remain a diner/restaurant, and we supported their application and welcomed them to our neighborhood,” the newsletter said.