As sad details about the closure of one of the Lower East Side’s favorite cafes and bars continue to emerge, a brand new concept is swooping in to ensure that the space will not remain vacant for long.
Group Gem is a brand new bar concept from owner George Mercado. George is a well-established hospitality veteran with over 25 years of experience, and has operated five different restaurants throughout his lifetime. His latest endeavor, Barbarrio, was a popular upscale restaurant that brought “downtown cuisine & atmosphere” to East Harlem “for a fraction of the price”. Opened in 2017 on Lexington Avenue between 102nd and 103rd, Barbarrio sadly closed in 2019 and has since been replaced by the Naughty Crab seafood restaurant.
Now, George is once again getting ready to debut a brand new concept for the Lower East Side. His latest concept, tentatively titled Group Gem, is envisioned as a beer and wine bar that will serve light appetizers, and is currently scheduled to open up at 19-21 Clinton Street, between Houston and Stanton. The space was formerly home to Ooh La La Cafe, a popular neighborhood cafe and wine bar that shut down only weeks ago. Their last day of service was held on July 10th, and fans are still deeply curious about the future of their favorite cafe.
While the Ooh La La owners have not yet discussed their plans for the near future, the space will not remain vacant for long. When George debuts Group Gem in the location, he will be able to seat about 20 guests inside at the tables, with an additional 6 seat bar planned for the left side of the store. For the menu, Group Gem will exclusively serve appetizers in order to accommodate its drink options. Additionally, there are no plans for any sidewalk cafes or live music events.
George is now in the process of acquiring a liquor license for the space and is currently getting ready to meet with the community board. He is proposing operating hours of 4:00 PM – 12:00 AM, every night from Tuesday to Sunday, as the bar will not be open on Mondays. George is still extremely early into development, as Ooh La La has only closed a few weeks ago, so he has not yet launched any of Group Gem’s social media accounts. Once he has though, we will be sure to update you accordingly with the appropriate links.