(LOWER MANHATTAN) – A national restaurant chain famous for entrees with high caloric content and low prices wants to open a franchise on the ground floor of a luxury high-rise condo. Not only is the economic contrast of the situation making news, the contrast between the image of the eatery and the health-conscious Mayor of the city in which it wishes to open its first location is garnering attention as well.
Denny’s has passed preliminary muster with the city to open its first New York City location in the ground floor retail space in 150 Nassau Street, cater-corner from City Hall. It means that if the chain restaurant that promotes its “Baconalia” menu successfully opens in the targeted location, it would be about 150 paces from the office of the same mayor who is still trying to get a ban on large sugary drinks implemented citywide.
“If you ate every day like that,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said regarding Denny’s high-calorie offerings, “you would be obese, and your life expectancy and quality of life would be dramatically worse.”
The mayor’s statement was in response to a question posed by PIX11 News to him regarding the irony of the eatery being in such close proximity to his office. Bloomberg spoke on the issue at a news conference with Health Commissioner Thomas Farley about a separate health issue, the tenth anniversary of the city’s successful smoking ban in bars and restaurants.
However, regarding the possible Denny’s opening, neither Mayor Bloomberg nor Commissioner Farley saw irony in its being a stone’s throw from the mayor’s healthful City Hall. The mayor did, however, caution against overindulgence of certain foods on the restaurant’s menu.
“If it’s as advertised, that’s an awful lot of calories to eat at one sitting,” Mayor Bloomberg told PIX11 News, “[but] if you do it once a month, it’s not going to hurt you.”
The federal Food and Drug Administration recommends that Americans about 2000 calories on average daily, in order to not gain weight. By contrast, on the Denny’s Baconalia menu, its New Caramel Bacon Stuffed French Toast has 1210 calories, according to information provided to the website BrandEating.com. The chain’s Spicy Pepper Bacon Jack Burger has 1350 calories, and Denny’s New Ultimate BLT sandwich has 1980 calories, just 20 calories shy of a whole day’s recommended caloric intake.
PIX11 News sampled the BLT, and while it was tasty, it did not prove itself worthy of the caloric guilt.
Meanwhile, neighbors of the proposed eatery, which has gotten clearance from the city’s Community Board 1, had mixed previews at best. “Why [put it] in a landmarked block in a landmarked building?” asked Mark Donnenfeld, who is on the condo board of 140 Nassau, the building next door to the empty retail space where Denny’s wishes to locate. “It’s the malling of America, literally and figuratively.”
A resident of the building that Denny’s has targeted, 150 Nassau, who chose not to give his name, told PIX11 News that nobody in the building had known about the restaurant’s plans until it started making headlines Wednesday morning. “It’s apparently the work of the people who own the space” where Denny’s wants to open, he said. 150 Nassau is a condo building, and the retail space on its ground floor is a commercial condo, according to the resident.
He anticipated that at the next meeting of Community Board 1, in which Denny’s representatives will ask for approval of a license to serve beer and wine, neighbors will show up en masse to protest, and to encourage the community board to prohibit the restaurant’s opening.
However, not everybody is against the concept of a chain restaurant located across the street from City Hall. “I think it’s good the mayor is calorie conscious,” said neighbor Karen Brines, “but it’s a fine balance.”
The community board’s next meeting is in May, and could very well determine whether or not the restaurant is able to open at the Nassau Street address. There is a precedent for a restaurant with a less-than stellar reputation for healthy food operating out of the 150 Nassau location. Prior to the building turning condo in 2003,
its retail space was a Taco Bell.