City takes slice out of Arby’s Downtown plan

The Brooklyn Paper
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The city sent Arby’s back to the carving board, ordering a redesign from a restaurateur who dreams of opening the chain roast beef sandwich shop in the landmarked former Gage and Tollner site on Fulton Mall.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission chopped up Raymond Chera’s proposal to open the Arby’s in the historic space due to planned modifications that it believes could compromise the wood-paneled restaurant’s 1892 interior.

“It’s a challenge, there’s no doubt about it,” said Commission Chairman Robert Tierney. “It’s a very special place. It might be a square peg in a round hole, but there must be a solution that evokes it better.”

The Commission put Chera on the hotplate for his plans to install light-colored flooring, remove a section of an arched mirrored wall, construct booths against the historic paneled walls, build a counter in the rear of the restaurant for taking orders, and mount internally illuminated signs.

“There’s an opportunity for Arby’s to do something out of the box and to look at something more customized,” said Commissioner Roberta Washington.

Chera could not be reached for comment, but he told The Brooklyn Paper in March that he would work hard to preserve the space.

“It’s an opportunity to take advantage of one of the most beautiful interiors in Brooklyn and bring it back to life,” said Chera, who is planning to open about 40 other Arby’s franchises around the city.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s negative review of the Arby’s plan comes one month after Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee voted 8-1 to support the chain’s application to slightly modify the famed interior with its own furniture and freestanding menus.

Since the acclaimed seafood and chop shop Gage and Tollner closed in 2004, the space has left a bad taste in the mouth of restaurateurs.

A T.G.I. Friday’s lasted three years in the space before closing, and much-ballyhooed plan to bring the soul food eatery Amy Ruth’s blew up in the oven.

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Reader Feedback

Phoebe from Fort Greene says:
I know that there is supposed to be a bigger profit margin in fast food resturants, but it has been proven that there is no profit in it in this building. If Gage & Tollner could operate struggling through the 70's, 80' 90's shorely with all the new development and more business & residents in the area a new "Gage & Tollner" is the best bet for the space. There certainly is a shortage of decent resturants in Downtown Brooklyn, it is a shame.
May 21, 2009, 12:14 pm
Fred from CGardens says:
Phoebe: G&T closed because it was staggering along and losing money, and its high-priced menu & trad-heavy fare no longer had appeal.
Seriously - we can't expect someone to keep a business open, & lose money on it, just for 'scenic' purposes.
May 25, 2009, 1:07 pm

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