With the back-to-back announcements that the Court Street Tea Lounge will close and the planned Brooklyn Heights branch isn’t happening because of disagreements over the lease, it’s easy to call owner Jonathan Spiel down for the count.
But Spiel said that the down economy hasn’t discouraged him and it won’t stop his plans for future small business projects in the borough. “What makes Brooklyn different from a lot of places is that you have community here,” he said. “Small business is definitely down, especially more than I want it to be. But I expect it to be down in this economy.”
He said that Tea Lounge is a community orientated business, with many regular customers. The Court Street location, however, closed not because of the economy, but because “there just wasn’t enough business in the community. It was poor even before the economy.”
The Brooklyn Heights Tea Lounge wasn’t a victim of the economy, but of what he described as an unreasonable lease. Among the non-negotiable items was a clause that allowed the 111 Hicks Street coop board to determine what kind of music could be played, as well as one to terminate the lease if there were two noise complaints in 60 days.
“I’ve never seen such a thing,” he said. “My lawyer wouldn’t let me sign it. Such requests were prohibitive to running a business.”
While Spiel said that there may be another Tea Lounge in the future, for now he wants to focus on improving business at the Park Slope location and another restaurant-concept project he has on the horizon. “I can’t say much about it, but we have an amazing project we’re looking to do somewhere in Brooklyn,” he said, adding that he was looking in both Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights for a location.
“It’s definitely tough out there for a small business. The city doesn’t make it easy,” especially for a micro-business, which he described as having under 30 employees. Despite that, Spiel will continue on his quest to keep building communities in Brooklyn.