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RED BANK: OWNER VOWS ‘NOT ANOTHER FIXX’

rb gotham 060514Gotham Lounge will have a dress code, a partner in the business said. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

HOT-TOPIC_02By JOHN T. WARD

Hoping to head off misconceptions, a partner in the Gotham Lounge, a proposed Red Bank nightclub, promises an “upscale, sophisticated” speakeasy-themed place with a dress code.

Joseph Squillaro tells redbankgreen that the Broad Street club will be respectful of local sensitivities.

“I know how important it is to the town that they not have another Chubby’s there, not another Fixx” he said, referring by the former and current names of a West Front Street bar that authorities shut down for three weeks earlier this year following two street melees within a month last fall.

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RED BANK: NIGHTCLUB EYES BROAD STREET

rb gotham 060414Gotham Lounge would feature bars on two floors. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

HOT-TOPIC_02By JOHN T. WARD

Vacant for just a month, the former Red Bank home of Hamilton Jewelers could become a swank nightclub if approved by town planning officials.

A Shrewsbury anesthesiologist, Ted Kutzin, has proposed converting the storefront at 19 Broad Street into the Gotham Lounge, a “high-end bar/lounge with tapas food and occasional entertainment,” according to documents filed recently with the town planning office.

Gotham would become part of an rapid overhaul of upper Broad Street that includes half a dozen new restaurants, as well as two that have already failed, and another that’s about to add 200 seats to a competitive dining market. It would also join Red and the Downtown in competing for clubgoers.

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CHAR DESIGNER HEATS UP THE DINING SCENE

Restaurant designer Jeff Cahill at the new Char Steakhouse, below, which opened on Broad Street Wednesday night. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Now rising from the ashes in Red Bank: Char Steakhouse, the most widely anticipated business to debut downtown since Blue Water Seafood landed one block north on Broad Street in June, 2011.

Will it generate the economic oomph to match the dollars – not to mention the expectations of nearby merchants – that have been poured into it? Restaurateur Matteo Ingrao is betting on it: he’s rumored to have dropped $2 million on renovations to the former Ashes Cigar Bar space with hopes of creating a dining mecca.

But also clutching his Sharpie on the sidelines is Jeff Cahill, a soft-spoken, self-taught interior designer who’s gradually transforming the look and feel of dining out on the Green, one dazzling location at a time.

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FOR CONTRACTORS, AN OPEN-DOOR POLICY

Rcsm2_010508On a stroll through downtown Red Bank Thursday, redbankgreen found an unusual amount of renovation work underway.

Some of it, like the conversion of the former Ashes Cigar Bar at 33 Broad Street to a Char Steakhouse, above, has been proceeding for months. But other sites that have long appeared dormant now seem to have stirred back to life.

Click the Read More to take the photo tour yourself. Have we missed any? And do you see a common thread? (Click to enlarge)

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CHAR GETS LIQUORED UP & LANDLORD SCORES

The restaurant is doing an extensive overhaul at 33 Broad Street and plans a September opening, says the landlord. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Rcsm2_010508You’ll be able to get a bourbon with that porterhouse when Char Steakhouse opens in Red Bank later this year.

And among those who may want to raise a beverage in celebration is landlord Jack Anderson, whose hedge bet on a liquor license has paid off.

“I’d be screwed without it,” he tells redbankgreen.

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PLANNING BOARD: CHAR DESIGN WELL-DONE

Char owner Matteo Ingrao with supporters after obtaining approval for his steakhouse, which includes a makeover of the two-story portion at right in the image below. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

In a decision widely seen as replacing a busted cylinder in downtown Red Bank’s economic engine, the borough planning board approved a handful of variances for Char Steakhouse Monday night.

The restaurant, which plans to occupy the space long held by Ashes Cigar Bar at the corner of Broad and Mechanic streets, encountered only light resistance over questions of whether changes to a two-story extension of the original 19th-century building complied with historic district guidelines.

Mayor Pasquale Menna brushed aside such concerns, likening a pair of two-story, rectangular windows on the 1960s addition to I.M. Pei’s once-controversial installation of a glass pyramid to bring light into the depths of Paris’ Louvre museum.

“I see your attempt to infuse rays of light” into a dark space where his mother once worked as a seamstress, Menna said. “That is a very creative use and recycling of a property.”

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RED BANK: CHAR TO SEEK PARKING VARIANCE

char-exteriorArchitect’s drawings of the proposed Char facade include a wavy awning and two-story windows. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

char-ext-2The restaurant that plans to fill the downtown Red Bank space last used by Ashes Cigar Bar took several key steps toward fruition in the recent weeks.

Still, Char Steakhouse may yet need zoning variances before it can begin what’s expected to be an expensive renovation of the prominent structure, on the southeast corner of Broad and Mechanic streets.

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DUBLIN HOUSE HIT FOR $1.1M IN DWI DEATH

hot-topic rightRed Bank’s Dublin House pub is on the hook for more than $1 million of a $3.3 million jury award to the family a man killed by a drunk, off-duty State Trooper in Middletown four years ago, the Asbury Park Press reported Thursday last week.

Also having to pay into the settlement is the defunct Ashes Cigar Bar nightclub on Broad Street. A third Red Bank watering hole that was sued was spared from the judgment.

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WHAT IN BLOODY HELL HAPPENED HERE?

mechanic-blood-2Building owner Jack Anderson removes broken glass Thursday morning from the scene of a mystery incident on Mechanic Street in Red Bank. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Somebody had a rough, bloody night in Red Bank.

Office and store workers arrived downtown Thursday morning to find a window at the former Ashes Cigar Bar smashed and a heavy trail of blood running about 150 down Mechanic Street, where it ended in a pool on the apron of a driveway.

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IT’S OFFICIAL: CHAR TAKES ASHES SPACE

ashes-072011Vacant for the past year, the corner building on Broad Street has a new tenant. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The three-story space formerly home to Ashes Cigar Bar in Red Bank is about to get some of its sizzle back.

After a year of vacancy, the building at the corner of Broad and Mechanic streets has a new tenant, Char Steakhouse. An ill-kept but unconfirmed secret in town for weeks, the acknowledgement came Monday, when signs appeared in the windows of the vacant space to alert passersby.

Building owner Jack Anderson of Jack’s Music Shoppe across Broad Street also confirmed the deal, and said he is in the process of obtaining borough government approval to sell Char the liquor license he bought from the now defunct Little Kraut restaurant on Bridge Avenue.

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DOWNTOWN, THE YEAR CHURNS TO AN END

rb-dinerVacant since May, the former East Side Cafe is getting set to reopen as the Red Bank Diner. (Click to enlarge)

rcsm2_010508By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The last time redbankgreen published a rundown of Red Bank’s downtown economy, it was a rather dour picture sprinkled with a sense of optimism.

While clusters of storefronts worked better as mirrors than as shopping destinations, RiverCenter Executive Director Nancy Adams was bullish on the borough’s economy, saying the large number of vacancies in town could be parlayed into new, exciting ventures for businesses to infuse new blood into the heart of Red Bank.

Seems Adams had a bead on the future.

Nearly a dozen new businesses have either moved in or are set to open their doors in the next couple of months, Adams said.

“There’s stuff going on. It’s kind of nice,” she said.

Here’s what’s churning in Red Bank:

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NO PLANS YET FOR ‘ACCIDENTAL’ LICENSE

eugene-devlin-2007

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It happened by “accident,” Eugene Devlin tells redbankgreen, that he walked out of Ashes Cigar Club‘s public auction yesterday the owner of the defunct nightclub’s liquor license.

Devlin, co-owner of The Dublin House (seen at right in 2007), had previousy left the auction because he heard somebody else had placed a successful bid on the license. Then he got a phone call from John Anderson, son of Jack Anderson, who owns the Broad Street building Ashes occupied, that there was a problem with the bid, and suggested Devlin return.

He did, and for $395,000 came away with the liquor license. Now he and business partner Sean Dunne have to figure out what to do with it.

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DUB GETS ASHES LICENSE AT AUCTION

ashes-auction1Hundreds packed the shuttered Ashes Cigar Bar Tuesday to bid on anything and everything on the auction block. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

At a public auction for the assets of Ashes Cigar Bar, the owners of Red Bank’s Dublin House bought the defunct nightclub’s liquor license for $395,000 Tuesday.

While that was the biggest ticket item on the block, hundreds of restaurateurs, workout vultures and spectators filled the Broad Street space to place bids on everything from barstools to kitchen equipment to bottles of wine.

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SEAFOOD RESTAURANT EYES BROAD STREET

zaksonsBlue Water Seafood hopes to open in the space being vacated by Zakon’s Fine Furniture. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi. Click to enlarge)

just_in1Three days after the Red Bank borough council initiated plans to make it easier for parking-deficient businesses to open in town, an East Brunswick-based seafood restaurant has landed on the planning board agenda with a proposal to open on Broad Street.

Blue Water Seafood, which had previously hoped to take over the space occupied by Ashes Cigar Club before a deal fell apart earlier this year, is now hoping to open at 9 Broad, according to plans filed with the borough planning office.

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EMPTY WINDOWS OF OPPORTUNITY?

65-broadA year after taking over space from the short-lived Nevada Exchange store — which itself followed the short-tenured Maison Blanche — D’Angelico Guitars has left Red Bank. (Photo bu Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

With all the empty storefronts and ‘for sale or lease’ signs downtown, it might be hard to see a silver lining for Red Bank’s economy.rcsm2_010508

Scattered along on Broad and Front streets, windows show reflections and hollowed-out stores, not merchandise.

Or they’re plastered with contact information, like one downtown cornerstone, Ashes Cigar Club, which was abruptly shut down during the height of the summer bustle.

But there’s still hope for Red Bank, says Nancy Adams, executive director of RiverCenter, and things aren’t all that bad when you look at the larger economic picture.

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