After Neighbors Nix Wine and Cheese, He’s Selling Suitcase Scooters

Edgar VillongcoMelvin Felix Edgar Villongco

Edgar Villongco dreamed of opening a cafe on East 12th Street, a couple of blocks from his home, where locals could enjoy a traditional Swiss dish, similar to fondue, with a glass of white wine. But this week, he opened a scooter shop, Urban Motion, in the spot where New York Raclette would’ve been.

So what happened? Mr. Villongco had his cafe at 508 East 12th Street, in the former Jubb’s Longevity space, all planned out: a chef de partie at Cafe Boulud would craft the raclette, a dish consisting of melted cheese scraped from the wheel and served with meat and potatoes; a former employee of Danny Meyer’s Tabla would help with the menu and the wine selection. A Website, which The Local linked to in March, promised “a relaxing cafe experience.”

“I had a good team but obviously it didn’t work out that way,” Mr. Villongco said. “Some people spoke out against having another liquor license on this street and I heard them loud and clear.”

Urban MotionMelvin Felix Urban Motion

The budding restaurateur felt a beer-and-wine license was a necessary part of his operation, since raclette is a heavy dish. “You need wine or else people would get indigestion,” he said. But his neighbors didn’t see it that way. According to the minutes of a Community Board 3 meeting in April, seven of them showed up to protest the license, citing noise from existing businesses.

At a meeting of the board’s SLA Licensing committee earlier this month, neighbors again complained about noise from Northern Spy Co. in voicing concerns about another restaurant seeking a wine-and-beer license on the block. Bugs, a sushi restaurant, had to agree to close at 9 p.m. before the board voted to support its bid.

Mr. Villongco was aware that he could go to the State Liquor Authority even without the board’s blessing (the authority has a history of ignoring C.B. 3’s recommendations in the case of beer-and-wine applications), but as a resident of East 13th Street, he didn’t want to rock the boat. “It was a huge part of the consideration that these people were my neighbors,” he said.

Instead, he decided to establish Urban Motion, which sells lightweight kick scooters, electric scooters and folding bikes – a concept he came up with while commuting from the Flatiron to New Jersey and dealing with the hassles of lugging a bike up and down stairs and on crowded trains.

Luggage you can ride on.Melvin Felix A suitcase doubling as a scooter sells for $299.

As The Local spoke to Mr. Villongco, a man and woman who said they lived on the block entered the shop and welcomed him to the neighborhood. “The community is very excited to have you,” said the man. “I don’t know if other people have told you this. We went to the community board to protest the people who were going to take this space before. This is so much healthier.”

Mr. Villongco didn’t let on that he was the one they had spoken out against.

“We went, ‘Oh no! What’s it going to be? It’s not going to be a bar, is it?’” the woman said. “This is very cool. We’ll try to spread the word for you.”

As they stepped out, Mr. Villongco thanked them for stopping by.

He still wants to open New York Raclette, maybe in a different neighborhood.