"Admittedly, over the last six years or so, our business at Oceana had turned [down] a little bit but not our reputation," admits Nick Livanos, the head of the Livanos Restaurant Group, which owns six restaurants in the city and nearby suburbs, including the heralded Greek trailblazer Molyvos.
"Oceana has always been dearest to us in an emotional, spiritual way as it was a major part of our lives for so long.
It was never an option to end it.
We had to make it continue and move it to a worthy location and space."
Tapping the sea/ship analogy one more time, the 12,900-square-foot gutted shell of the former women's clothing store that Oceana would soon occupy resembled the empty hull of a super tanker.
In New York City especially, and in almost every other urban area where restaurateurs and landlords butt heads over every square foot, Livanos
was looking at the proverbial field of dreams.
landlord, The Rockefeller Group
, is a dream, too, after it handed him an additional 400 square feet to accommodate the air conditioning.
A few things broke in their favor, most importantly-and a deal-breaker, says Livanos
, if it weren't there-the ironwork for the vent shaft to the 51st floor, which someone had the foresight to construct when the building went up in 1974 even though no restaurant had ever been planned for the space.
"It's always the first question you ask," Livanos
says about an existing exhaust outlet.
"If the answer is no, then you just walk away."
Early on, Livanos
and Pollinger discarded the idea of different menus for the various sections of the restaurant.
"We wanted to make the whole menu available throughout," says Livanos