The Tea Lounge — once the emergent coffeehouse chain of Brownstone Brooklyn — has scrapped its much-anticipated plan to expand its now one-store empire into Brooklyn Heights, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.
Tea Lounge owner Jonathan Spiel said the long-awaited Heights branch of the popular writers hangout will not open inside the St. George Tower between Pineapple and Clark streets because of disagreements regarding the lease.
“It is not happening because the landlord there — which is the coop board — made some absolutely ridiculous lease requests,” said Spiel, who claims the lease included stipulations requiring certain renovations, the hiring of a sound engineer, the installation of soundproofing, and a proviso allowing the board to terminate his lease if the coffeehouse racked up two noise complaints within a 60-day period.
“They wanted me to completely renovate that space so that should I go out of business, they would have a brand new, perfectly renovated space to rent,” he said.
Members of the coop board at 111 Hicks St. and an attorney representing the group did not return calls before The Brooklyn Paper’s piping hot deadline.
The news comes as a double shot of disappointment for caffeine-loving Brooklynites, as the Tea Lounge’s Court Street location in Cobble Hill closed last month.
“There just wasn’t enough business,” said Spiel of the shuttered location, which was between Baltic and Kane streets.
The Cobble Hill shop shut its doors just one year after the original branch of Tea Lounge at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Ninth Street in Park Slope closed — but the two coffeehouses poured their last cups for very different reasons.
“The one in Park Slope had nothing to performance; it had to do with rent. The one on Court Street had nothing to do with rent; it had to do with performance,” said Spiel.
The closure, which led to the opening of a Vietnamese sandwich joint, sent shockwaves last summer through Park Slope, where mommies, daddies, and writers — including the legendary Libba Bray — had flocked for joe, tea, conversation and inspiration since 2001.
The only remaining vestige of the once mighty coffee empire is its cavernous location on Union Street near Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, which is still loaded with shabby couches and a wide array of teas.
But business there is down, too.
“Things have slowed a little bit because of the recession, but we have a lot of great loyal customers,” said Spiel, who said he hopes to open another shop — potentially in Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights or Crown Heights — but not “in the short term.”
“We are not where we were a year or two ago, but we’re still surviving,” he said.