Crepe Grill gets the shaft from Hoboken City Hall

Below is an unedited letter from the owners of Crepe Grill, and their hellish nightmare of a time dealing with the complete ineptitude rampant City Hall in Hoboken.

“Just wanted to reach out and give you the 411 on the status of Crepe Grill and the current situation between us and the city. I also wanted to add that Crepe Grill is in no means “doomed,” and we are currently working with investors to re-open in another location.

Originally we were approached by Mayor Roberts to fill the concessionaire around the same time our business was conceived, which probably was reflective in the first reviews you guys gave us. Crepe Grill was under extreme pressure to open the location within weeks of foresaid agreement, because the administration strongly felt the deserted building reflected poorly on the city, particularly when the Park was in season. The administration felt, as we did our product was unique enough to draw enough attention capable of withstanding the lack of revenue generated in the winter. Mayor Roberts understood it would take a special product to generate business in the winter, which was the leading cause as to why these businesses failed.”

“Mayor Roberts felt strongly the administration would do everything in its power to help Crepe Grill succeed to insure the pavilion remained open, which was their primary goal. Therefore the relationship between Crepe Grill and the city was one of strong support and in unison, which at the time, heavily influenced Crepe Grill to enter into a high risk low reward investment. Crepe Grill felt it would have to heavily invest in the property in order to change what was considered a seasonal location into a year round enterprise. The city persuaded us to invest heavily towards rebuilding the pavilion for the betterment of Sinatra Café’s future, by insinuating future biddings would be rewarded to Crepe Grill on the basis it kept the location open. The city assured Crepe Grill the location would never be turned over and possibly risk another vendors failure. Why else would we invest over $100,000 for a seasonal location with only a 3 year lease? Backnote: Stevens failed on numerous occasions to open a successful business and grew so frustrated, they decided to stop trying and furthermore had no intention of fulfilling any requirements within their lease, such as remaining open or paying rent. In fact, Stevens defaulted on over $60,000 in back rent, which was eventually swept under the rug. Naturally you would ask yourself, why we even entered into this venture to begin with. During the preliminary sub-lease with Stevens, Sinatra Park was fully operational and as a result, yielded very high profits. Even despite some initial setbacks as a new business, the feedback we received was generally of high praise from our customers. Knowing we had a great business with great potential, along with the added assurance the location would remain under Crepe Grill’s control for years to come, we decided to move forward with Hoboken as our strongest ally. Then the shit hit the fan and everything collapsed, literally.

Within a week of opening, news reports stated Sinatra Park was contaminated with lead contamination, which forced the city to close down the soccer field, which in essence is our primary source of income. To make matters worse, the administration failed to inform us that Sinatra Park was about to undergo the heavy construction of Pier C Park and a WWII Memorial.”

Headache after headache at Crepe Grill!

“The Pier C construction brought with it a 9 ft cement wall, which closed the major walkway leading to our concessionaire, another major source of Crepe Grills income. Try to imagine Crepe Grill’s predicament for just a moment. Upon standing outside our dining room, to your left you have a lead contaminated soccer field being torn to shreds, to your center you have a huge and noisy shipyard obstructing your view of lower Manhattan and to your right you have an area being ripped apart for a memorial, nonetheless. Not exactly what we had in mind for our Grand Opening. It’s safe to say we lost some revenue the next few months as a result. Note, Crepe Grill decided to close for over ten days, until it was clear the lead contamination in no way put our customers in danger and the administration verbally agreed to waive the rent pertaining to that month.

Over the next few months in 2008, a new set of issues began to surface. From one day to the next, it had appeared that the pavilion had become infested with mice. Being that my partner and I are generally neat freaks and picky eaters, you cannot imagine the horror we went through during that period. We closed periodically as the problem persisted and demanded the city take action, which entailed a pest controller placing sticky traps all along the restaurant. Despite our complaints the city failed to take the necessary actions needed to solve the problem, therefore Crepe Grill was forced to spend thousands to have the pavilion professionally sealed and fortified with highly effective traps. Since then we never saw a mouse again. The company we hired concluded that the heavy drilling of Pier C created intense vibrations so severe, a large population of sea mice migrated towards the city’s pavilion.

The other issue however came from the roof. Because the Pavilion was improperly constructed and lacked water ducts, water would accumulate on the roof and damages would ensue. Aside from heavy leakage, there were several instances where plaster would fall on our customers as they were eating. The City gave us the contact information to their roofing company, which consisted of an answering machine and a man we were convinced did not exist. Let’s just say the problem was never resolved and any vendor contracted by the city is utterly useless. Aside from having a variety of fixtures within the restaurant constantly breaking down due to years of neglect, such as our kitchen hood and walk in fridge, the largest problem came from the buildings inability to generate enough heat during the winter. The lack of heat was unbearable and it was customary for customers to eat with their coats on. Regardless of how inviting we tried to make the place look, customers would cancel their orders as soon as they saw their own breath. The administration sent a couple park guys to try and fix the problem, but you guessed it, to no avail.”

“Things improved in the summer of 2009 when the soccer field re-opened and despite being the rainiest season since 1908, we were optimistic Pier C would turn the tide. Several delays continually pushed back the opening of Pier C over a period of two years and when it finally did in December of 2010, Crepe Grill had two weeks left on its lease.

When the pier collapsed in September of 2009 and shut down the soccer field indefinitely, Sinatra Park had become a virtual dead zone. We went to city hall weekly practically begging for anyone to talk to us about the situation and we quickly learned that not only did the past promises from the previous administration disappear, but the current administration could care less about our predicament.

When the winter of 2009 came and the administration failed to even attempt to fix the heating situation, Crepe Grill decided to start withholding rent, as a means of drawing any kind of attention from the city. Up until May of 2010, Crepe Grill had been inserting its rent money in a trust fund established by our attorney. Once the city got wind that the situation became a legal matter, a meeting was held between both parties. The administration initially proposed using the rent money to fix the pavilion’s roof, but we were more concerned about addressing the heavy losses Crepe Grill obtained, while Sinatra Park laid in ruins. Mayor Zimmer responded by adding insult to injury when she decided to completely shut down Sinatra Drive on Sundays for bicyclists, denying vehicle access to Crepe Grill customers on its busiest day of the week. With a 9ft cement wall blocking off the major walkway, barricades at the beginning and end of Sinatra Drive and signs everywhere saying the park was closed, It actually felt like Crepe Grill was being quarantined from any customers visiting the pavilion.

Our second and final meeting with Arch Liston lasted about 5 minutes. Arch told our attorney he refused to speak to us until we turned over the trust fund to the city, including the months in question, such as the lead contamination and plane/helicopter incidents and we refused until the city addressed its negligence. We addressed the issue at several city council meetings, but members were unable to comment, because the issue was “under litigation,” when on the contrary, nothing was yet filed and our reason for attending was to resolve the issue without litigation.

Since then we have formally filed a complaint against Hoboken with the state, that could have been avoided if the administration was willing to listen. How this affects Hoboken is that whether the pavilion stands or is torn down it remains deserted, which will continue to reflect poorly on the city of Hoboken.

In retrospect, Dawn Zimmer is liable for putting tax payers money at risk, because of her unwillingness to address issues that are affecting the livelihood of those involved and the quality of life within Sinatra Park. Under our contract we are listed as a “concessionaire’ and strongly believe that a concessionaire by nature is heavily reliant on the recreational facilities surrounding it. The very definition of concessionaire is lost if no recreational activity exists to support it.”

Hoboken Crepe Grill is Doomed

2011 Update:
The Crepe Grill is doomed as of Summer 2011. See Crepe Grill update here.

Crepe Grill 2008 Review – Hoboken, NJ

10/30/2008 Update & 3nd Review:

Stopped by the Crepe Grill (5th & Sinatra Dr.) last week for a follow up. I’m a little surprised, considering the great location, why the establishment isn’t busier! They have incredible unobstructed views of Manhattan – and very delicious crepes!

Review and gallery below…

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Crepe Grill – 3rd time’s a charm

The first review we did back when they opened, may have been a bit too premature – as they were still shaking of the opening week jitters. So a Hoboken411 reader and I had lunch there last week.

Here’s the usual “bullet point” no-frills style overview:

  • My dining companion and myself each ordered a sliced-steak based crepe (I had the philly cheese steak version).
  • We were essentially knocked out by the taste of the crepes. Much tastier than the first time. Large portion, excellent flavor – and “manageability” was improved.
  • After finishing the crepe “sandwiches,” we were offered two desserts on the house (my god) – they were tasty! One Banana-based (with Nutella) and the other with sliced apples. They’re very large, and impossible to eat by yourself. Suggest sharing!
  • Did you know that the Crepe Grill is BYOB? Before the weather gets too cold, why not bring a bottle (or three) of your favorite wine – have a tasty crepe – and soak up the great skyline view that people pay a premium for (especially in real estate!)
  • One of the reasons they might be suffering as of late – is the ongoing work of the WW2 Memorial – as well as Pier C Park. The fence to the south may deter many potential customers.
  • Some renovations and updates are planned in the near future. Also, they may close for a month or two when the weather is the coldest.
  • They have a new website: www.crepegrill.com (no longer just a MySpace page.)

Overall

The dining experience in general was satisfactory. We might suspect that the restaurant has an “identity crisis” of sorts. It may have a bit one-sided menu (everything pretty much has the word “crepe” in it – and may scare some customers away. But the variety of different crepes (including breakfast!) was impressive.

Another issue might be the fact that it’s a restaurant, but with an ordering counter. What is it? Fast food, or fine dining? It creates a bit of mayhem in our opinion. The counter should just be for takeout – and they should have regular wait-service. That would make the overall visit a bit more comfortable, especially since placing and receiving an order is significantly longer than say – a pizza place.

Overall – if you’re looking for something different to do – with BYOB status, and the signature NYC Skyline view you might want to check it out soon!

1/10/2008 Original Update/Review:

Here’s another restaurant review I was too slow to put up.

It seems like they’re doing some renovation to this (historically poorly managed) “food hut” by Sinatra Park. I peeked inside, and it didn’t seem like much work was being done. Who knows, maybe it’s just a ploy to trick people into thinking that something will change about the place.

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See some (boring) pictures of crepes when they were open after the break, but here are my two reviews in a nutshell:

  1. The first time we went, just like another reviewer, it took almost 45 minutes to get two crepes (the place was pretty much empty too.) Horrible experience, and the crepes were hit & miss. My spicy chicken was good (although they were missing an ingredient or two – let them slide – first day open), and the other crepe (ham & cheese) was extremely lackluster. I became a bit woozy afterward with the chicken, though (think: White Castle.)
  2. Second time a few weeks later, was still slow service, but a slight improvement. I had the same chicken (despite my prior woes) and it was actually quite delicious and filling (no issues the second time around.) We had also ordered a dessert, which they totally forgot about (I had a coupon for a free one.) It wasn’t as advertised on the menu, and was a sloppy nightmare to eat. Annoying for such mediocre food & service.

These “crepe-pockets” are not a novelty that I think will have staying power in Hoboken. Why pay 8 bucks for a glorified and sloppy hot-pocket you can pretty much get at Shoprite for 2 bucks or less.

In order, the titles of the pictures are: “Fiesta Chicken Crepe,” a “Sloppy Nutella Crepe,” and “We’re open but no one is sitting down.”

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6/13/2007:

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A break from the recent elections to talk about what is taking the place of the old Sinatra Park Cafe.

Their MySpace page says:
“CREPE GRILL WILL BE TAKING THE PLACE OF FRANK SINATRA CAFE. WE WILL TRY OUR BEST TO OPEN BEFORE JULY 1ST. DELIVERY SERVICES WILL BE AVAILABLE MID JULY.”

MENU:

  • PESTO STEAK CREPE
  • STEAK MILANESE CREPE
  • SPICY STEAK CREPE
  • THE ULTIMATE CREPE
  • HONEY MUSTARD CHICKEN CREPE
  • CHICKEN CAESAR CREPE
  • SPICY CHICKEN CREPE
  • FIESTA CREPE
  • CHICKEN TERIYAKI CREPE
  • VEGGIE CREPE
  • ARTICHOKE HEARTS CREPE

hoboken-crepe-grill-2.jpgKIDS CORNER

  • PIZZA CREPE
  • KIDS CREPE
  • CHICKEN AND CHEESE CREPE
  • KING CRAB CREPE

DESSERT CREPES

  • STRAWBERRY DELIGHT CREPE
  • NUTELLA CREPE
  • GO NUTS! GO BANANAS! CREPE
  • STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE CREPE
  • STRAWBERRY AND BANANA CREPE
  • BANANA NUTELLA CREPE
  • ICE CREAM PARADISE CREPE
  • CREPE SUZETTE
  • CREPE FLAN

BREAKFAST CREPES

Description: Umm, crepes?
Address: 525 Sinatra Drive, Hoboken, NJ 07030
Phone: Peter 201-742-2134 or Mark 201-450-3852
Website: MySpace

Hoboken Sinatra Park Crepe Grill