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City Island Bistro opens after liquor license paperwork issues

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Bistro SK on City Island, the only French restaurant on the island, finally has its liquor license.

The Bistro, located at 273 City Island Avenue, was founded by Stephane Kane about nine months ago and fills a void on the island by providing French cuisine at prices that are no higher than $21 per entree, Kane said.

The business nearly went under because Kane had difficulty obtaining a liquor license due to paperwork issues. The DOB informed Kane that he would have to make modifications to the building in order to obtain a liquor license, but would never release a complete list of those repairs, Kane said.

“I opened my place thinking that I would get my liquor license in four to six months, but it ended up taking nine months,” Kane said. “People could have nothing to drink but soda and water. It is on wine that we make most of our money, not so much on food.”

Kane reached out to Senator Jeff Klein’s office for help after the Buildings Department informed him that since the previous occupant of the space had made modifications to the building without proper permits, they could not send the Letter of No Objection he needed for the State Liquor Authority.

“This was a case where government bureaucracy was not only standing in the way of a responsible small business, but also the vibrancy of a neighborho­od,” Klein said. “City Island is an internationally known destination for fine cuisine, but had not had a French restaurant for almost two years.”

According to Klein’s office, Kane worked with the Senator’s staff to arrange for the proper architects to work on the project, and have the DOB expedite the needed review periods. Klein also helped Kane to arrange payment plans with his landlord, Ruth Markowe, and the architects, to protect the solvency of his business.

Kane soon received the paperwork from DOB, and Klein then worked with the SLA to ensure that the license was issued the same day. Kane says he believes the restaurant will add to the island’s dining experience.

“I am the only French restaurant on City Island, and I wanted the people who live here and those who visit come to a restaurant that is both inexpensive and has great food,” Kane said. “All of my first customers came through word-of-mouth. People are thrilled because my food is excellent.”

Kane is from France, and has been working in the restaurant business since he was 18. He worked throughoutEurope before moving to Montreal and finally to New York. After appearing in a television commercial for Pizza Hut three years ago, Kane decided to take the money he made from the commercial to become his own boss.

He is proud of his chicken breast dish that is stuffed with mushrooms and spinach and served with mashed potatoes, and his hamburger served with brie cheese.

Updated 5:07 pm, October 21, 2011
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