Decades ago, the restaurant served up clam broth to longshoremen taking a break from the Hoboken docks. It continued serving customers until a portion of the façade buckled around May 7, 2003. Tenants of the residential units above had to leave.
After a lengthy legal battle over whether the building could be salvaged, it was determined that it had to be torn down.
About to be sold
On the near horizon, there likely will be a new owner of the Clam Broth property. Currently, the property is owned by Arthur Peleaz and his wife Christina, via the limited liability company A&C Investment Group. They have owned the building for about the past 30 years.
But roughly a year ago, Peleaz entered into a negotiation with Danny Tattoli, who is from a longtime Hoboken family, to buy the historic building. According to Tattoli's lawyer, Stephen R. Spector, Tattoli now has a contract to buy the property, contingent on getting the necessary approvals and inspections. Spector could not disclose the sale price.
The approved building will rise seven stories. The bottom two will house the Clam Broth House Restaurant, which will be re-opened. The famous neon sign of a finger pointing will be restored and attached to the building façade.
The third and fourth floors will be office space, and the fifth through seventh floors will be eight apartment units.
The property is zoned for only five stories, so the applicant had to ask for variances for height and density. The board approved the variances with only the board's chairman Joe Crimmins and Jim Perry dissenting.
According to the project's architect, James McNeight, whose office is in Hoboken, the plans that were presented to the Zoning Board are a mix of two architectural styles. The bottom five stories will be of an Italian style, with a large window and a typical Hoboken cornice.
On floors six and seven there are plans for a French Second Empire-style roof. This was a popular Victorian style just before the turn of the century, with a distinctive double sloped roof and multiple dormers. The roof will be slate with cooper features, and will have a characteristic tall mansard roof and wrought iron cresting, said McNeight.
An example of a similar roof in Hoboken can be seen at the Parisian, a building that McNeight designed, on the southwest corner of Washington and Ninth streets.
Faithful to Hoboken
While the proposal is not an exact recreation of the original Clam Broth house building, McNeight said, the design is faithful to Hoboken's historical fabric.
During the Zoning Board hearing, McNeight presented the board with an aerial photo of Hoboken from the 1920s, which showed a number of similar roofs in the area of the train station. "What we are trying to do is recapture some of the interesting stuff that used to be around there 100 years ago and to bring back some of the lost glory that has been destroyed over the years," McNeight said. "This [design] isn't exactly what was [on this property], but in my opinion, it's better than what was there."
What about ownership of the restaurant?
Peleaz previously owned the Clam Broth House Restaurant for 19 years before he sold the business in 1994 to the Penque-Risky Corporation. In 2001, Michael Acciardi and his business partner, Reinaldo Becerra, paid $1.3 million to buy Penque-Risky. With the purchase of the company, the two also assumed the lease of the space, which rented for $14,000 a month. Currently, there is ongoing litigation between Peleaz and Acciardi, who currently owns the restaurant, the liquor license and all the signage. Now that the building is razed, Peleaz has attempted to terminate the lease.
According to Spector, this is an issue between Peleaz and Acciardi, and the sale of the building should go through regardless. Spector said that if Acciardi were to win, they would gladly welcome him back as a tenant, and if Peleaz were to legally terminate the lease, then they would conduct an extensive search to find a qualified restaurateur to operate the historic eatery.
Was the Historic Commission usurped?
About two weeks ago, the applicant was before the city's Historic Commission. "At this time, the commissioners all agreed that they would like to have this building reconstructed to have the same aesthetics and appearance as the original building," said members of the city's Historic Commission in a letter to the Zoning Board. "This would be very important to our community." The applicant even drew up a second set of plans, which was a seven-story building with only a cornice on the roofline. The Second Empire features, including the mansard roof, were removed. But after deliberation, the Zoning Board went with the original design.
According to Zoning Board Attorney Doug Bern, who wrote a letter back to the Historic Commission, the Zoning Board has jurisdiction over the Historic Commission to make the final decision.
Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, who is chairperson of the Historic Commission, said that in the past, after the Zoning Board grants a variance, it returns to the Historic Commission for a second review.
But according to Bern's letter, in this case, the Historic Commission will not get a second look at the project. Castellano said that in her 27 years on the board, she has never seen the Historic Commission's authority usurped in this way.
"We've never gotten a letter like this before," said Castellano. "It's really a travesty that we are doing this with such a historic building."