Christian Pascal buys Bill’s Townhouse as old restaurants come back to life

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The shuttered former home of Bill’s Townhouse restaurant — and Bill’s Gay ’90s for many years before that — is coming back to life with the backing of a powerful Manhattan impresario, Realty Check has learned.

The lease at 57 E. 54th St. was signed a few days ago by Christian Pascal, co-owner of the famous Hunt & Fish Club. It illustrates a growing trend: ambitious restaurants opening in large, dark venues that previously housed other dining establishments.

Pascal’s new spot, in the swanky block that’s also home to Cellini and Nerai, will likely be called Bill’s Supper Club.

James Famularo of Meridian Retail Leasing, which represented the owners of 57 E. 54th St., said they were “close” to the listed asking price of $40,000 a month for 8,000 square feet over three floors.

Although some of the so-called “second generation” opening plans, like Fasano’s spectacular launch this week in the former Four Seasons space at 280 Park Ave., were set in motion before the pandemic, there is no doubt that the huge opening tide signifies confidence in the city’s future.

The former Bill's Townhouse restaurant in New York
The shuttered 57 E. 54th St. former home of Bill’s Townhouse Restaurant – and Bill’s Gay ’90s for many years before – is coming back to life, backed by a powerful Manhattan impresario.
CHAD RACHMAN

The Manhattan restaurant signing blizzard includes:

Italian favorite Valbella at the former Da Dong space on West 42nd Street at 3 Bryant Park; La Brasserie on the former Les Halles site at 411 Park Avenue So.; and, as we first reported last week, global brand BeefBar at 105 Hudson St., site of the original Nobu.

Also opening this week: Pebble Bar, from an all-star team of downtown nightlife investors. The three-level bar and lounge sits on the Rockefeller Center site of the famous and former Hurley’s saloon.

Christian Pascal
Celebrity-loving Hunt & Fish Club co-owner Christian Pascal will bring Bill’s townhouse home, Realty Check has learned. It will probably be called Bill’s Supper Club.
Christian Johnstone

Recent offerings include: Kyu Asian Barbecue coming to the old Gato at 324 Lafayette St., sushi giant Fushimi to the old Hakkasan at 311 W. 43d St., and T-Bar at 116 E. 60th St., previously an Asian steakhouse.

Famularo, who also negotiated Fushimi’s lease, spoke of “high demand” in Brooklyn and Queens as well as Manhattan. His team has signed more than 400 restaurant leases since March 2020.

He attributed it in part to Small Business Administration and Paycheck Protection Program loans and government grants “waiting to roll out to market together.”

Fasano is in the old Four Seasons
The sleek new interior of Fasano’s debut in the former Four Seasons space at 280 Park Ave.
Eric Medsker

The new restaurants share an impressive size and ambition. Fasano is the first American restaurant of the Brazilian hotel company of Italian founder Gero Fasano. It adapts the elegant Four Seasons design by architect Isay Weinfeld, who has also collaborated with Fasano on their South American properties.

Valbella’s grand opening this week at 3 Bryant Park marks the biggest move from one Manhattan address to another. Its new location inside a glass portion of the skyscraper is as visible from the street as its old space was hidden behind a plaza at 11 E. 53rd St.

Valbella owner David Ghatan said it was 18,000 square feet, up from 4,500 at the old location. He and a partner started “reviewing it before the pandemic hit,” he said. It was “an opportunity for us to open a bigger Valbella” with sushi and caviar bars on the outdoor terraces as well as high-end Italian cuisine.

The new Valbella has 18,000 square feet compared to just 4,500 on East 53rd Street. Everything had to be built from scratch for “large numbers”, Ghatan said, as the Da Dong space was a wreck when it closed in January 2020.

Spencer Levy, CBRE’s retail leasing powerhouse, which previously handled restaurant leases for Gabriel Kreuther and several South Street Seaport locations, was not involved in the current harvest.

Interior of Bill's 90s Cafe in New York
The interior of the former Bill’s 90s Cafe will be brought back to life as a new interaction.
CHAD RACHMAN

But he said of the market, “The inventory [of restaurant-suitable spaces] is quickly recovered. »

The pandemic has left countless storefronts empty. But the large, empty Duane Reades and Gaps lack the ventilation, plumbing, and other mechanical necessities needed to service the kitchen. Restorers are therefore looking for vacant spaces with the right bones.

Levy said the infrastructure in place helps mitigate high rental and opening costs. “If you can take over the existing infrastructure, your ROI can happen faster,” he said, referring to ROI.

He noted that Four Seasons operators have invested nearly $40 million inside 280 Park Ave. before closing the place after less than two years. “So even if Fasano has to invest $5 million, it’s not $40 million,” Levy said.

All owners believe in the future despite undercrowded office buildings and lingering Covid-19 fears. Ghatan de Valbella said, “New York will never die. It will come back and we want to be part of it.

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