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A ‘landmark’ Arby’s to take historic Gage space

The Brooklyn Paper
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When the roast beef sandwich joint Arby’s opens in the historic Gage and Tollner storefront this spring, there will be big changes on the menu — but hardly any alterations to the eatery’s famed interior, the restaurateur behind the fast food franchise told The Brooklyn Paper.

Raymond Chera says he will maintain the 1890s atmosphere of famed Fulton Street steak and seafood eatery.

“We are working very hard to preserve everything in the space,” said Chera, who is planning to open about 40 other Arby’s franchises around the city.

“It’s an opportunity to take advantage of one of the most beautiful interiors in Brooklyn and bring it back to life.”

The building and its interior — which boasts arched mirrors, chandeliers, red cherry wood paneling, and 36 famous gas lamps — are city landmarks, so when the restaurant transitions changes from classy surf to grab-and-go turf, there can’t be too many modifications.

Chera’s plans to install supplemental lighting, signage, and a counter might be a concern for the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“The Commission needs to see that [the counter] won’t have an impact,” said Commission spokeswoman Lisi De Bourbon.

The site of the future Arby’s, where Gage and Tollner operated from 1892 until it closed, has proven to be a problematic location for new restaurants.

T.G.I. Friday’s opened at the site in 2004 and shut down three years later. This summer, plans to open a branch of the legendary Harlem soul food eatery Amy Ruth’s went belly up.

But the man who closed Gage and Tollner said that Arby’s might have what it takes to survive on Fulton Street.

“It’s a shame it’s going to be fast food in that beautiful, beautiful room, but it’s not a place where upscale [restaurants] can survive,” said Joseph Chirico.

“Maybe fast food can make it,” he said.

Updated 6:00 pm, March 19, 2009
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