Landlords of the closed Jack's Placita say they will open a food-court-style family eatery in place of the colorful, and problematic, Broadway restaurant and bar.
Although alcohol will still be sold, "drinking will be de-emphasized" at the new business, which will "be a place where you can walk in and get different kinds of food," Joseph Hertzberg, co-owner of the building at 327-329 Broadway, said last week.
Jack's Placita operator Jack Katash closed his 10-year-old business about three weeks ago, after the property owners decided not to renew his lease.
Famous for its fried shrimp specials, pre-noon cocktails and, at one time, drag shows, Jack's Placita generated complaints from neighboring merchants who said the bar drew drunks who loitered and harassed passersby, brawled, urinated and did drugs in the area, scaring away customers.
Zoning officials held a hearing last spring in response to the complaints, and agreed with merchants and police that Jack's Placita was a public nuisance. Associate Zoning Administrator Andrew Sincosky ordered the business to adhere to several conditions in order to stay open.
Sincosky ordered Katash to keep alcohol-consuming customers out of the open storefront, wall off the bar area and open at 10 a.m. rather than 9. Sincosky also banned dancing in the facility and ruled that the business had to have a uniformed security guard on duty, expeditiously clean up graffiti and pay $4,052 for the city's investigation time. Property owners Hertzberg and the Meshul Family Trust, meanwhile, decided not to renew Katash's lease when it expired in July.
The property owners said they will run the eatery themselves and change it into a wholesome place that complies with Sincosky's requirements. But the owners objected to two of the conditions--the $4,000 fee and a requirement that alcohol sales be "incidental" to food sales.
Hertzberg told the city Board of Zoning Appeals last week that the property owners should not have to pay the city fee since the problems were Katash's fault and the property owners are already spending thousands of dollars to change the eatery.
Hertzberg also questioned whether the incidental alcohol sales requirement meant each patron wanting to buy alcohol must also buy a food item. Such a requirement would burden the business, and the owners already intend to emphasize food rather than alcohol sales, Hertzberg said.
He said alcohol will be sold in only a small bar area in the back of the business and that the rest of the counters will serve food only.
But Estela Lopez, executive director of Miracle on Broadway, an organization of Broadway business owners, argued that such a strict alcohol sales rule is necessary to "break the pattern" of drunken behavior she said was instigated by Jack's Placita.
"We don't want this to be a beer garden, as it was run by Jack Katash," Lopez said.
The Board of Zoning Appeals simply added a requirement that the new business's alcohol sales receipts must not exceed food sales receipts. The board also ordered the owners to pay the $4,052 to the city and come back for a review six months after the new business opens.