Archive for the tag 'businesses'

Photo by Robert Fernandez

The former ball pit at Nostrand Avenue’s McDonald’s (Photo by Robert Fernandez)

Breaking news! The McDonald’s at 3540 Nostrand Avenue no longer has balls.

The fast food restaurant cleared out the ball pit recently, according to super-tipster Robert Fernandez, who sent in the photo above.

It should come as no real surprise. McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants across the nation have been getting rid of ball pits for years, largely for sanitary reasons. A former McDonald’s employee responded to a Yahoo Answers request, explaining:

The ball pits in many fast food restaurants have been removed mainly because they are extremely unsanitary … things such as food, band aids and even soiled diapers to be disposed within the ball pit. It isn’t practical for the cleaning staff at fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s to clean the ball pit various times throughout the day so those items sit in the ball pit causing bacteria to spread throughout all of the balls.

The ball pit castrations came around the same time as a headline-grabbing study in 2011 that looked at just how filthy America’s 15,000 playroom facilities were.

Dr. Erin Carr-Jordan’s analysis revealed:

Not only did we find pathogens that could make children ill, we found bacteria that were potentially deadly.

… Among my bacterial findings: Staph aureus, Pseudomonas, E. coli, Bacillus cereus and Coliforms. These can cause everything from nausea and vomiting, to skin infections, meningitis and death.

There was also quite a bit of poop on those balls.

Sure makes you look differently at that floor in the photo above, doesn’t it?

Golden Hour at El Greco

As we mournfully bid “αντίο” — that’s Greek for “Auf Wiedersehen” — to our friends at El Greco Diner, and further lament the long bygone days of other legendary neighborhood dinerial establishments such as Ray & Shy’s Flame Restaurant (aka “The Flame,” where my parents went on their first date back in 1970), the Foursome, which made the finest U-bet’s egg creams on God’s green earth, and my personal favorite, New Clements, of blessed memory… let us remember the good times and turn toward the future.

With tomorrow’s pending closure of El Greco, our little corner of the world grows ever more bereft of places to get disco fries at 2 in the morning.

However, once the mourning period for El Greco concludes (and really, does it ever?), there is no reason, after a night out of marathon bar-crawling celebrating that much-deserved promotion, why you should deny your hypothalamus and grumbling belly the greasy, dopamine-skritching, artery-gorging deliciousness that is two eggs sunny side up, crispy home fries, sizzling bacon, and a piping hot black cuppa joe.

Well, I have great news for all you intrepid foodies: You can still have those things… just, after Friday, not at El Greco. If you’re a local diner fiend looking to get your greasy spoon on, do like Elizabeth Taylor once said and “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together… and check out Sheepshead Bites’ roundup of some neighborhood diners to help fill the gaping void that El Greco will leave in our broken hearts forever.”

Okay, she didn’t really say that last part, but still… check out our roundup of local diners and diner-style eateries below. I checked out the user comments for all these places on Yelp, some of which were profoundly bizarre. In lieu of my own opinions (because I haven’t actually been to a couple of these places), I chose the more illustrious comments on Yelp. They speak for themselves.

Read our full roundup of eight Sheepshead Bay-area diners to get your fill.

Preliminary rendering of the new building to replace El Greco at 1801 Emmons Avenue. The view is from Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road. (Source: Sergey Rybak)

Preliminary rendering of the new building to replace El Greco at 1809 Emmons Avenue. The view is from Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road. (Source: Sergey Rybak)

EXCLUSIVE: A seven-story condominium building with ground-level retail, abundant parking and a 9,000-square-foot landscaped public plaza will soon be constructed at Sheepshead Bay Road and Emmons Avenue, replacing El Greco Diner, the new owners told Sheepshead Bites in an exclusive interview.

Buyer Sergey Rybak detailed his preliminary plans following the $13 million sale of the 1809 Emmons Avenue property on Friday, which he purchased with partner Jason Reznik under the name 1809 Emmons Avenue LLC. Rybak’s company, Rybak Development, is overseeing construction.

Rybak Development already has a track record in the area. The company is part owner of the MatchPoint NYC sports complex on Shell Road, and is developing several luxury condominium projects in the area, including 3041 Ocean Avenue and 104 West End Avenue, as well as commercial projects like 1810 Voorhies Avenue. Their roster of developments is almost exclusively in Southern Brooklyn.

At the moment, all plans shared with Sheepshead Bites, including the plaza and the layout of the building, are subject to change. The final project, he hopes, will be as-of-right, meaning no approval from the Community Board or Board of Standards and Appeals will be required – but that can change, too.

See more renderings, and learn details of the plan for 1801 Emmons Avenue.

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UPDATE: See the exclusive renderings for the building the new owners have planned for this space.

El Greco Diner is bustling with nostalgic patrons since news of its impending closure after 40 years of business became public.

“It’s been crazy since you ran the story,” owner George Venetoklis told Sheepshead Bites. “Lines to get in. Too bad we are closing. Packed as we speak.”

Venetoklis said the deal for the 1821 Emmons Avenue location officially closed Friday morning. He declined to name the buyer or the sale price, but Sheepshead Bites learned that Rybak Development purchased the property for $13 million with plans to build a mixed-use property and public plaza. An auction to sell off the restaurant’s equipment is scheduled for late December.

Venetoklis said a sale has been in the works for some time, as he, his brother Peter and mother Anastasia put blood, sweat and tears into keeping it going in a changing community and economy.

“We had a really good run. A lot of businesses, at some point the model just changes. Our model was large portions at good prices. Our food prices were beginning to skyrocket and we couldn’t keep up,” he said. Other economic factors were also at play. “Real estate taxes, labor costs, everything took its toll. As a family, we realized we put in our time. Forty years, it was time to move on.”

A final breakfast of two eggs over easy with sausage and English muffin for this reporter.

A final breakfast of two eggs over easy with sausage and English muffin for this reporter.

El Greco’s owners did mount a search prior to the deal to sell the business and keep it in operation, but they said businesses like theirs have a shrinking place in communities.

“We were looking for a more modern version of the El Greco family to come in and take over,” he said. “I think that [Sheepshead Bay] has been doing well, but it’s just that the larger corporate-run businesses are the ones that have greater longevity and more backing and more ability to do things in a different way. That’s just what the nature of the beast is.”

It wasn’t an easy decision to close the diner. Founded by George’s father Minos in 1974, El Greco’s remained a true family business, where the two brothers were raised and eventually worked to keep the elder Venetoklis’ memory alive 20 years after his passing.

I was three-and-a-half when it opened, and my mother is fighting off tears.” he said. “I have four children … and they were heartbroken. I can understand it because I was basically their age when I was growing up in this restaurant. My 8-year-old turned to me and said, ‘Dad, what are you going to do?’ I said ‘I’ll spend more time with you.’”

Venetoklis said it’s the relationships he makes with customers, employees and business suppliers that he’ll miss the most.

“The highlights have been the customers and the friendships we made. This place has never closed, the business has a life of its own. It doesn’t sleep. And I’ve worked every shift in this place; I’ve seen the neighborhood change. I’ve seen the menu change – we had items that we’ve had to remove because the customers weren’t around to eat them,” he said.

The restaurant, recently named one of the borough’s best diners, was teeming with longtime regulars on Saturday afternoon. Chatter about the pending closure could be overheard at almost every table.

Among the regulars were Marc and Zoya Baroda, a Mill Basin husband and wife who met at the restaurant nearly 20 years ago and who now visit regularly with their three children, ages 6 to 15.

“I worked here as a hostess, and he was the pickle man,” said Zoya. It was 1995, and she got the job because she was a frequent patron. “I grew up here. I came here before I met him, before I worked here, and this was the place to go after a club or a night out and this is where to meet up.”

Marc and Zoya Baroda with their three kids. They say they'll be back again before the restaurant closes for good.

Marc and Zoya Baroda with their three kids. They say they’ll be back again before the restaurant closes for good.

Her future husband made the regular deliveries for Mr. Pickle – which he’ll continue to do until the closing this week.

“He’d flirt, of course. He delivered, and would come to the cashier and I’d have to pay him and he’d flirt,” she said.

It took a vacation out of town to work up the nerve to ask her out, said Marc.

“I was talking, talking and one time when I went on vacation to Mexico, one of the guys who works for me, I told him to tell Zoya when I come back I’m going to be looking for her,” boasted Marc.

He did, and they married two years later. They took their wedding photos inside the restaurant.

“There’s an old joke I used to do with Peter and George after we got married. Every time she got pregnant, I’d tell them the price of the pickles went up,” he laughed.

When they found out it was closing, “I was shocked. I was completely distraught. And my phone has been going off non-stop. My friends who moved out of Brooklyn saying that they have to come to New York to have that last breakfast or lunch or whatever,” said Zoya. “I’m very sad to see the place go, but all good things must come to end.”

“I’m not just losing a diner, I’m also losing a client. But I’m not losing a friend,” he said of Peter and George.

Venetoklis said such sentiments have been endlessly echoed by regulars, and that’s what they’ll remember the most when they lock the diner’s doors for a final time.

“It’s bittersweet. It hurts, but at the same time it feels good,” he said.

This is a paid announcement from the Midwood Development Corp.:

shop-midwood

shop-midwood2Shop local this holiday season! The Midwood Development Corp. (MDC) and the Midwood Merchants Association (MMA) present Shop Midwood WeekDecember 14-28, 2014.

Participating merchants on Avenue J, Avenue M, and Coney Island Avenue are offering special deals and discounts for everyone on your list. For example:

…and much more! Click here for a list of participating businesses.

In addition, MDC and MMA will introduce the Shop Midwood customer loyalty card, which will entitle the bearer to special deals and discounts valid through June 30, 2015!

Please visit the MDC or MMA websites for more information, or call 718-376-0999.

Shop Midwood Week and the Shop Midwood customer loyalty card are sponsored by Astoria Bank.

#shoplocal  #staylocal  #smallbiz

The above is a paid announcement by the Midwood Development Corp. Sheepshead Bites has not verified the claims made in this advertisement. If you own a business and would like to announce a special offer to tens of thousands of locals, e-mail us at advertising [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Photo By Erica Sherman

Photo By Erica Sherman

UPDATE: See the exclusive renderings for the building the new owners have planned for this space, and hear what the current owners and some patrons will miss the most when El Greco closes.

Sheepshead Bay’s iconic El Greco Diner is set to shutter next week after the property has gone into contract for a sale, making way for a new residential tower with ground-level commercial space, sources tell Sheepshead Bites.

El Greco Diner, a waterfront staple at 1821 Emmons Avenue, will soon serve its last burger and breakfast, an employee confirmed by phone today.

“Yes, we’re closing. By the end of next week. We’re not sure yet [what day],” the employee said.

The worker added that she and colleagues were told just yesterday. She hung up the phone when asked for additional details.

The sale of the property and its closure are not yet public. Owner George Venetoklis did not return calls for comment, but sources with knowledge of the deal confirmed social media chatter, and said that the land has sold to a local developer with plans to construct a new building.

The building was put up for sale in March 2013 with an asking price of $17.5 million. An associate for Massey Knakel Realty Services, the listing agent, told Sheepshead Bites that the company no longer represented the property, but that El Greco’s owners had gone in-contract with a private buyer.

A source with knowledge of the pending sale said the deal hasn’t closed yet, but is in contract for between $13 and $15 million. The source requested anonymity to preserve business relationships with the owner.

“They should be closing shortly,” the source said.

No plans have been filed with the Department of Buildings, and since the deal has not closed there has been no paperwork filed notifying the city in a change of ownership.

El Greco has served Sheepshead Bay patrons since the 1970s, and has been named one of Brooklyn’s best diners. Employees were hit hard by the news of its impending closure, according to diners who visited this morning.

“My wife was there this morning and the employees were all devastated,” said Michael Goldstein, the director of marketing at Kingsborough Community College. “They also told her in secret.”

UPDATE (December 12, 2014 at 2pm): The deal officially closed this morning, confirmed owner George Venetoklis. He did not disclose the sale price or the buyer, but did add that El Greco’s last day of operation is slated for Friday, December 19.

This is what robot-facilitated sex assault looks like.

This is what robot-facilitated sex assault looks like.

T.G.I. Fridays wants to make dinner a little hotter this holiday season, so they’re deploying drones equipped with dangling mistletoe to hover over diners’ heads and encourage a little heavy petting.

The Sheepshead Bay Fridays at 3181 Harkness Avenue will become the second location in the United States to feature the drones, with the weaponized make-out makers taking to the air inside the restaurant from 5pm to 9pm.

A fleet of the drones was released on U.K.-based T.G.I. Fridays last month, and made their first appearance earlier this week in Westbury, New York. If the gimmick proves popular with diners, it will continue in other Fridays across the United States.

The drones are equipped with cameras that point down towards their target. As they hover over a dining duo, the pair are broadcast onto large screen televisions throughout the restaurant, as well as on Fridays’ social media accounts – and those who hook-up get a gift card.

But Eater notes that even those who can’t make it into the restaurant can participate by posting a photo of you and your beau sucking face under the mistletoe on social media using #happyfridayholiday to have a chance to win a gift card.

The intrepid reporters over at the Daily News attended the Westbury event, where apparently most Fridays patrons are douchebags:

“I’m drinking Jack [DANIELS], so I was like, ‘Let’s go,’” said Joe, a Westbury customer who declined to give us his last name…

“He has a girlfriend – but she doesn’t live in New York so it doesn’t count,” said Hazel, 25, who not only declined to give her name, but asked the News to keep the randy recon off Facebook…

…”Some people might be on a date with their side chick and wouldn’t want their face up on the screen,” said Waterbury native Billy Casseus, 20. “I’m keeping it PG.”

Translation: If you’re having girl problems, I feel bad for you, son. I’ve got 99 problems and they’re all chain restaurant social media promotions.

All we know is with Fridays’ new look post-Sandy, all you can eat appetizers, and now this, our local Applebees better up its game. We recommend prophylactic-filled pinatas on Cinco de Mayo, or maybe for the Hannukah crowd, some LSD latkes.

sprint-1

Thank goodness. Sheepshead Bay Road has what it’s been missing for a whole six months: a Sprint store.

Sure, you could say, “What’s wrong with any of the six other cell phone stores (not to mention the two barber shops that also sell cell phones) on Sheepshead Bay Road?” The answer is, “I don’t know.” But we didn’t have a dedicated Sprint. At least not for the last six months.

Now we do. A Sprint location opened its doors in late November at 1610 Sheepshead Bay Road. It comes after the June closing of a locally-owned Sprint down the block at 1743 Sheepshead Bay Road.

It is good to see the renovated storefront leased. It’s one of the properties owned by Waldorf Realty, which also owns broad swaths of Sheepshead Bay Road that they’re currently renovating (unfortunately leaving several portions looking rundown and vacant). So now that the work is done and it’s filled, it’s one spot on the strip looking a little sunnier.

Welcome (back) to the neighborhood, Sprint.

 

This is a paid announcement from Brokelyn, a webmag devoted to living the best possible life in Brooklyn regardless of one’s means:

beer-book1

What’s a better gift than a pocket full of free beers at the best bars in Brooklyn?

The South Brooklyn & The Rockaways Beer Book offers 28 beers of your choice for $28 at 28 of the best bars in Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend, Marine Park, Sheepshead Bay, Sunset Park and the Rockaways.

This smartly-designed, limited edition, pocket-sized bar passport is a great gift for friends, lovers, dog walkers, babysitters, teachers, coaches, bosses and local news bloggers, among others. Sheepshead Bites and Bensonhurst Bean readers get a 20% discount on orders of four or more books. Enter the code Sheep5 at checkout. 

beer-book2

The book includes Sheepshead Bay’s own Brass Rail Bar (formerly Log Cabin) and Anyway Cafe, along with Bay Ridge mainstays Lock YardBean Post Pub and Windy City Ale House.

Explore the beer Valhalla that is Gravesend’s Draft Barn, or get down with some meatloaf and some football at Marine Park’s Third & Seven. Don’t make the same mistake as Leo: order more than cranberry juice at Sunset Park’s Irish Haven, where THAT bar scene in The Departed was filmed. Or explore 3rd generation family-owned marina-side watering hole Tamaqua Bar & Grill in Gerritsen Beach.

Order the South Brooklyn & The Rockaways Beer Book here, and check out the full list of neighborhoods and participating bars. Remember to enter Sheep5 at checkout to get 20% off orders of four books or more, making it an even better deal. Happy Cyber-Monday, people.

The above is a paid announcement by Brokelyn, a webmag devoted to living the best possible life in Brooklyn regardless of one’s means. Sheepshead Bites has not verified the claims made in this advertisement. If you own a business and would like to announce a special offer to tens of thousands of locals, e-mail us at advertising [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

chipotle-2

I spent way too much time making this happen.

First Starbucks. Then Red Mango. Now Chipotle Mexican Grill is headed to Kings Highway, replacing longtime clothing store Beverly Boutique at East 14th Street.

Wooden fencing recently went up around 1325 Kings Highway, and permits were issued in late September allowing the interior to be reworked for the establishment of a Chipotle Mexican Grill. Since then, additional permits have been issued for interior and exterior demolition and signage.

It’s the second Chipotle in Southern Brooklyn, with the first being at Kings Plaza. There is one in Bay Ridge as well.

Chipotle is known as a healthier fast-food alternative, selling burritos, tacos and salads that might make you need to buy special products from Billy Mays’ ghost.

Kings Highway itself seems to be on the way to a remarkable turnaround. When the economy tanked in 2008, vacancy rates along the strip skyrocketed. Now national chains are stepping in to fill the gap alongside mom-and-pop businesses, including T.J. Maxx, and several new commercial developments have popped up. Perhaps the largest one currently underway is the construction of a commercial and office space on the block-long stretch between East 16th Street and East 17th Street.

Are these chains good for Kings Highway, and the mom-and-pops that have historically fueled the strip’s growth? You tell us.

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