A popular Red Hook liquor store run by a feisty entrepreneur is scrambling to find a new home after an apparent deal to keep it in the neighborhood collapsed — along with the store’s ceiling — at the 11th hour.
It’s been a tough week at LeNell’s, the independent wine and whiskey specialist on Van Brunt Street — or as owner LeNell Smothers put it in a recent e-mail laced with drink recommendations and store gossip, “We have been in utter hell.”
Last week, Smothers’s lease expired at its location between Coffey and Van Dyke streets — and at the same time, a tentative agreement to build a new store and bar with local baron Greg O’Connell fell through.
O’Connell said construction costs were too expensive and the project too risky because a layout tailored to Smothers’s specifications might not be suitable for subsequent tenants.
The lost deal was a big blow to Smothers, who has known for months that she would have to uproot from her home for the past five years.
“I slowed down my search six months ago thinking that this deal was a ‘done deal,’” Smothers told The Brooklyn Paper.
That search began after her current landlord — who works for the Balucchi’s Indian restaurant chain — said he did not intend to renew her lease because he wants to use the ground floor himself, according to Smothers.
Smothers was hamstrung in her hunt for a new space because state liquor laws require any new store to be less than 1,000 feet from the current location.
Still, Smothers said she might relocate her store to Bedford-Stuyvesant and reapply for her license.
Until she secures a new commercial space, Smothers vows to hold onto her present location until she’s thrown out, a process that could take months.