Popular East Village Ukrainian restaurant Veselka, after earlier this year announcing plans to expand to Brooklyn, will make its Kings County debut in a former car wash on Williamsburg’s Lorimer Street, next to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
The family-owned restaurant is converting the 4,167-square-foot single-story industrial building at 646 Lorimer St., on the corner of Meeker Avenue, into a kitchen, restaurant, and “commissary,” according to Department of Buildings documents. The latter will likely sell prepared foods and baked goods much like the bakery counter at the original location. The project’s alt-1 permit was issued in August.
A rendering posted on the construction fence shows signage in both English and Ukrainian, with a takeout window and two entrances.
The circa-1918 brick building was built as a garage and operated as a car wash in recent years, old photos show. In 2016, it was converted by Nike into a temporary indoor skateboard park for one winter season.
Veselka’s history dates back almost as far. The family-owned restaurant opened on 2nd Avenue in the East Village in 1954 and has become a widely beloved staple for its traditional Ukrainian classics like borscht and pierogi. A 24-hour operation before the pandemic, it was known for its nightlife scene during the area’s punk heyday.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the restaurant has become an increasingly valuable gathering place for the city’s Ukrainian community, including new migrants who have fled the war. The business has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Ukraine’s war effort, owner Jason Birchard told the New York Post earlier this year.
Birchard said before the Russian invasion his family had been planning to temporarily close the 2nd Avenue location to repair the building, but decided against it as the venue became an increasingly popular gathering spot. He told the Post that once the Brooklyn location is open, the family intends to shut the 2nd Avenue space temporarily for renovations.
The Williamsburg location will also sell items such as clothes and kitchenware, Birchard told Brooklyn Paper in March. “Having an outpost in Brooklyn or Williamsburg has always been a dream of ours,” he said. “I have different vendors and friends that have locations in Williamsburg and they’re all doing very well there. Maybe I’m a little late to the game, but I’m very excited to be there.”
Veselka also has a quick-service restaurant at The Market Line on Delancey Street that opened in 2018, and the family recently opened another quick-service outpost at Grand Central Station. In May, Veselka signed a 48-year lease for the building at 646 Lorimer St., which is owned by 646 Lorimer LLC, according to city records.
The site at 646 Lorimer Street formerly included a section of Meeker Avenue between Lorimer and Withers streets, but in 2013 the owners of 646 Lorimer Street sold the Meeker Avenue stretch, 280 Meeker Avenue, for $6.2 million to developer Synapse Property Group under the name 280 Meeker LLC.
In 2014, Synapse planned a 14-story, 110-unit Yotel for the site, but that never came to pass. In 2020, Synapse leased the land to Withers Towers LLC in a $3.055 million deal that included the purchase of air rights from 646 Lorimer LLC and other nearby properties with different owners. Withers Towers LLC, with signatory Cheskie Weisz of CW Realty Group, then applied for a new-building permit and has since put up an eight-story mixed-use rental building known as the Vertex on the site.
This story first appeared on Brooklyn Paper’s sister site Brownstoner.