Last week, Gage and Tollner was restored to its former glory, as it opened to the public for the first Restaurateurs Roundtable, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s new Make It in Brooklyn series that explores what it takes to make it as a part of Brooklyn’s exploding and increasingly competitive food scene.
The beautiful venue was brought to life with a large crowd of all ages and backgrounds eager to connect with each other, share memories of Gage and Tollner, enjoy local food and drinks, and hear the panel of notable restaurant professionals discuss the industry, the neighborhood, and the future of food in Brooklyn.
Moderator and Food Republic Editor-in-Chief Richard Martin led with a discussion around restaurants’ key role of placemaking in a neighborhood. New restaurants, especially those of the caliber of last night’s young, aspiring panel, help neighborhoods build buzz, but more importantly create shared public space that is so crucial to New Yorkers.
There was talk of real estate prices, and the even higher risks of opening a restaurant in today’s New York City, although all agreed that it must be passion, not practicality, that pushes any restaurateur forward.
Noah Bernamoff, of Mile End, discussed the risks involved with launching and running a restaurant, and the importance of connection with where your food is coming from, while a healthy debate ensued around food delivery services like Seamless, Uber Eats, and, one of the night’s sponsors, MealPal, a new entrant to the market. Esther Choi and Stan Liu emphasized the importance of these platforms to the survival of their new businesses (Liu’s The Wei, opened on Fulton and Flatbush across from Junior’s six months ago, while Choi’s mokbar opened its first standalone space near the Barclays Center three months ago).
Anna Castellani talked about her approach to curating the Dekalb Market Food Hall, and the differences (and advantages) of working directly with the building’s developer rather than a landlord renting or each individual space. One major advantage is her ability to work with passionate food entrepreneurs to provide long leases that curate and develop talent. Choi agreed that her initial space in the Chelsea Market was what helped to validate her product quickly in a high foot traffic location.
All five members of the panel talked about the buzz and high foot traffic being some of the most attractive benefits to opening a new restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn.
The event really embodied the spirit and energy of the neighborhood, and the role of the Partnership as the key connector and promoter of everything Downtown Brooklyn.
Very special thanks to JPMorgan Chase, our Make it in Brooklyn sponsor, the Jemal family for generously loaning us the space.