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TGI Friday’s opens in Gun Hill Road mall

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Thank goodness it’s here. TGI Friday’s opened Labor Day weekend on Gun Hill Road. The chain restaurant has boosted business at the Gun Hill Road shopping center between Gunther and Ely avenues, Northeast Bronx Association president Vinny Prezioso said.

Disaster hit the shopping center in December 2008, when anchor tenant Circuit City closed. The electronics store had opened only months before, in August 2008. When Circuit City closed, a handful of stores set to open at the shopping center jumped ship, Prezioso said. Trailers gathered dust in the shopping center parking lot.

“There were late-night motorcycle drag races,” said Prezioso. “People started to dump garbage there.”

TGI Friday’s, known for its red-striped awnings and happy hour drinks, joined Dunkin Donuts, Ridgewood Savings Bank and a Chinese restaurant at the shopping center. It was set to open earlier but had to remove contaminated tanks from the property, Prezioso said. TGI Friday’s built the restaurant from scratch.

“I wish [TGI Friday’s] luck,” Prezioso said. “We fought to get it.”

Northeast Bronx residents stopped by TGI Friday’s throughout the summer to ask when it would open, manager Derry Grant said. The restaurant was packed on Labor Day. There are no other TGI Friday’s in the Bronx; the nearest franchises are at La Guardia Airport and in Scarsdale.

“So far, so good,” Grant said. “We had a busy Labor Day. People were excited when we opened. There are no restaurants like us around here.”

Courteous waiters and waitresses set TGI Friday’s apart, Grant said. The restaurant has averaged 800 to 900 patrons daily.

“The happy hour is crazy,” he said.

Some neighbors have complained about afternoon noise at the restaurant, Prezioso said. He stopped by TGI Friday’s around 3 p.m. and heard loud music. Community Board 11 district manager John Fratta has fielded complaints about night noise at the restaurant. He and the 49th Precinct will work with the restaurant to maintain quiet in the neighborhood, Fratta and Captain John Greeley said.

TGI Friday’s hired 150 employees to run its Bronx restaurant; most hail from the northeast Bronx, Grant said.

Duane Reade is set to open at the shopping center soon; the drug store is currently under construction, Prezioso said. The shopping center parking lot, empty for months, is full again, he said.

The shopping center’s located that housed Circuit City is still vacant. Prezioso and other northeast Bronx residents would like to see a supermarket lease the spot, but property owner Vornado Realty Trust has other ideas, a PC Richard & Son, perhaps.

TGI Friday’s plans to launch a neighborhood-friendly campaigns, general manager Jason Allen said. The restaurant will ask school and neighborhood groups to distribute fliers at TGI Friday’s for a night; in return, the restaurant will donate a percentage of its proceeds that night to the group.

TGI Friday’s offers discounts to military and law enforcement personnel in uniform, Allen said.

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