As the saying goes, if you build it they will come. This is sage wisdom that restaurant owners in the city’s India Square hope will hold true for them.
While the city has long focused its efforts to attract bars and restaurants to Newark Avenue, much of this attention has centered on the portion of Newark that is closest to downtown. Recently, however, the city has made some attempts to extend its Restaurant Row to include businesses located closer to the Journal Square neighborhood. Food establishments near Journal Square now hope their inclusion in Restaurant Row will attract additional assistance from the city and, naturally customers.
Inclusion in Restaurant Row is a “first step,” but businesses in India Square hope the city’s efforts don’t end there.
Jumpstart to neighborhood?
For years “Restaurant Row” referred to a bar and restaurant-dense area of downtown on Newark Avenue, between Grove Street and Jersey Avenue, and some of the surrounding blocks and streets.
Since last year the city has been expanding Restaurant Row as a way to both encourage more restaurants to come to Jersey City and to help the ones already here compete with hot spots in Hoboken and New York.
Inclusion in the city’s Restaurant Row zoning area exempts establishments like Skinners Loft and LITM from a law that requires businesses with liquor licenses to be at least 520 feet apart. In addition to this exemption, inclusion in Restaurant Row allows businesses to offer live entertainment without requesting a zoning variance from the city.
In April the city council approved a measure that expanded Restaurant Row to the portion of Newark Avenue between Kennedy Boulevard and the Pulaski Skyway, in the Journal Square area, a neighborhood many believe is in need of revitalization. The area, also known as India Square, is home to more than a dozen restaurants, the Canco Lofts condo development, and the Mana Contemporary art space, but still lacks the foot traffic and panache of downtown.
Extending Restaurant Row to this neighborhood is part of the city’s efforts to change that.
It’s a good foundation, according to Patel and the restaurant owners his association represents, but they hope the city’s efforts don’t end there.
“I think this will help in the future and more people will come,” said Sunil Dhingra, owner of Chaska, which specializes in North Indian cuisine. “This is a new business for me and everyday I get new customers. And with this Restaurant Row coming I can now apply for a liquor license, and that will bring in more people, too.”
But Dhingra added that he’d also like to see more done with the storefronts in India Square so that look more uniform and inviting.
“They were talking about doing something that would make the area look something like an Indian village, but I don’t know how long that’s going to take,” he added.
Patel agreed that the area is in need of a facelift and more exposure to Jersey City’s non-Indian community.
“Right now, you go in the restaurants, you see Indian people, Pakistani people. But we need to attract all kinds of customers for our businesses to succeed,” Patel said. “I’d like to see something done at [the intersection of] Newark and Kennedy Boulevard. Maybe like a fountain that can be an entrance to India Square.”
A corner at that corner has also been suggested.
Patel would like the city to also make the area more pedestrian-friendly by creating a “circle,” similar to what the city did when it created Grove Plaza at the Grove Street PATH Station. Planters and uniform storefronts, he said, would also give the area a better appearance and attract more customers, Patel said.
“This isn’t just the city’s responsibility, either,” he added. I’d like to see a partnership between the city and the business community. If the city helped put some of these things in place, I think the businesses would be able to maintain them.”
Ward C Councilwoman Nidia Lopez said the city plans to repave the street and sidewalks in this area later this fall.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.