The much-hyped, soon-to-open Breslin restaurant, situated in the 12-story Ace Hotel on Broadway and 29th, is giving members of the Masjid Ar-Rahman mosque across the street some agita. “Five times a day, there’s a hundred cabs on the street—the good news is you can always get a cab,” co-owner Ken Friedman told the Transom the other evening. He said some mosque visitors “object to seeing people drink alcohol.”
After the recent FergusStock, a festival during which famed British chef Fergus Henderson cooked whole pigs for a rapt crowd of New York chefs and foodies, Mr. Friedman said the mosque’s leaders called a meeting with the hotel. “They said, ‘Can you move the bar?’” he said. “And I laughed. And the guy said, ‘Oh, you think that’s funny?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that is funny, that is really funny, because we’re not going to move the bar just because you discovered we’re serving booze.’ Can you name one restaurant in New York that doesn’t serve booze?”
Mr. Friedman and his partner, Spotted Pig chef April Bloomfield, did agree to nix plans for a dive bar in a townhouse next door, but as for the restaurant, “I said, ‘This is the United States of America and we’ll do whatever the fuck we want.’” He said the mosque had suggested it couldn’t control the behavior of “a few bad eggs”; i.e., “we could get a brick through our window.” Mr. Friedman said he made the police aware of this threat.
A volunteer at the mosque returning a call from the Transom said that a law forbids serving liquor within 200 feet of a place of worship and that “not more than 200 feet is between the mosque and the bar.” To which Andrew Zobler, the hotel’s developer, responded: “The law is clear that in order for that to apply it has to be an exclusively dedicated house of worship, and at their space they have both residences and a restaurant, so basically, because of those uses the law allowed there to be a bar within 200 feet. Everyone was aware of that when the liquor license was granted.” He added: “Out of neighborliness and respect we’ve voluntarily acquiesced to covering the window with a curtain.”
The Breslin will serve breakfast and lunch beginning Thursday, Oct. 29, and add dinner a week or so later. U2 hosted a party there earlier in the month, and Alain Ducasse recently named its fries the best in New York. The restaurant was named for James Breslin, who originally opened the hotel as the Breslin in 1904 and hosted the longest boxing match in history in a special ring he built in its basement (he also once dated an Andrews sister). “He was the Andre Balazs of his time,” Mr. Friedman said.
He added that he and Ms. Bloomfield are optimistic about the restaurant’s prospects, despite the recent shuttering of another venture, the pricier John Dory on 10th Avenue. He said they plan to reopen the John Dory in a space four times as large (he would not reveal the location), and make it more casual, “like the Spotted Pig with fish.” They further hope to do some “weird things” like a bakery, a bar and perhaps “a country inn.” (This in addition to the Rusty Knot, which Mr. Friedman owns with Taavo Somer, and Locanda Verde, a restaurant he opened in the former Ago space with Robert De Niro, Ira Drukier and Richard Born of the Greenwich Hotel)
When the Transom visited, the “doily curtain” covering had not yet arrived, and paper has been taped to the windows to shield the mosque’s worshipers from the sight of a gay wedding over the weekend. “They can threaten, but they can’t really stop us,” Mr. Friedman said.