Chef Zod Plans to Close Resturant Blu in Montclair

BY  |  Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (32)

BluNew Jersey Monthly recently named Blu as one of the “25 Best Restaurants of 2014,” but fans of Chef Zod Arifai’s cuisine, or those who plan to dine there, better make their reservations soon. In the article, Arifai says he has decided to close Blu when his lease expires — no sooner than December 31, but no later than March 2015.

Arifai feels that BYO is the problem for the restaurant, which opened in 2005.

“I’m hugely grateful to my customers, who have supported me all these years,” he said to NJ Monthly, “but younger people, say 25 to 45, are not into BYOs. They want to order cocktails and craft beers. Older customers like to bring their best wines, but they eat out less often. In New York, the idea of high-level food in a super casual space is understood. Here, it doesn’t quite click.”

Next Door fans need not worry. Arifai’s would like to purchase the building that houses Blu and its more casual, lower priced Next Door and expand. “I might open more Next Doors in other Jersey towns,” he says. “One hundred percent of the population understands that food.”





  1. POSTED BY montclairdad  |  July 23, 2014 @ 8:59 am

    I’m being 100 percent serious here, so somebody please educate me, what is the rationale behind Montclair being such a BYOB town? I agree 100 percent with Arafai on this. When I go to a restaurant, I don’t want to have to bring my own. It’s one of the reasons we don’t frequent a lot of Montclair restaurants on a whim.

  2. POSTED BY cathar  |  July 23, 2014 @ 9:29 am

    I suspect that no one wished to kneel before Zod. Hence the real basic reason for the closing.

    As for the poster who dislikes BYOB restaurants, however, are you kidding me? Are you serious? You really enjoy paying a 300% markup for a bottle of relative swill? Rather than your own carefully selected and probably reasonably priced bottle? In lieu, even, of paying $15 and up for a drink composed of several ingredients you may not even discern in the final result? Folks on this site never cease to amuse me.

  3. POSTED BY Rob I.  |  July 23, 2014 @ 10:03 am

    The horribly outdated New Jersey liquor laws allow for only a handful of restaurants in each town to have liquor licenses. There are about three outstanding licenses in Montclair but they are being hoarded by opportunists who seek to profit from a silly law that dates back to the repeal of prohibition.

    We need to persuade our legislators that it’s in their best interests to serve their constituents, responsible adults who want to order a glass of draft beer with their meal, and allow towns to either increase the number of liquor licenses available. Alternatively, they could create restricted licenses that allow restaurants to serve just beer and wine. Chef Zod has the right idea: people my age don’t mind paying $8-10 for a GOOD drink.

  4. POSTED BY Chelsea  |  July 23, 2014 @ 10:06 am

    I’m part of the younger age group. My friends and I love Montclair for being a BYOB town. You can bring your own craft beer, wine or cocktail mixture. For young people who are still trying to save and go out and have a good time, BYOB is the way to go.

  5. POSTED BY cspn55  |  July 23, 2014 @ 11:23 am

    agree w/ Cathar and Chelsea……BYO is THE best thing in general about the restaurant scene in Montclair. It saves a ton of money and allows you choice in what to bring. I do understand the business-end of that being bad for restuarant profits, but I would be saddened if we weren’t a mostly BYO town. For me and my group of friends, BYO is a huge draw for the area. Now if the restaurants charged a more reasonable price for drinks I would be fine with more liquor license establishments, but paying $12-$15 for a 1 drink or glass of wine is just a waste of money.

  6. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  July 23, 2014 @ 11:32 am

    The last liquor license that I know of bought in Montclair copst the owner $700,000 and is being used right now, not hoarded.

    In order to change the amount of these pricy licenses the town would either have to buy out these owners at market value or get sued until the town is renamed Oppps that was a dumb move.

    I just read the menu of Blu they have posted online and I have to ask. Is that a joke ? You can’t just take any two opposing flavors toss them together and call it high end. That is the problem with local places is they try way to hard to be original or the next thing and in the end the taste doesn’t justify the cost. If it wasn’t for BYOing to keep the cost down more then half the places in town would be closing.

  7. POSTED BY Rob I.  |  July 23, 2014 @ 11:51 am

    Not sure why I even bothered making a thoughtful comment when the same old tired commenters around here are both judgmental and cranky. Good luck with all that!

    I’m thankful Montclair at least has Egan’s and Upstairs and Pig & Prince. Hope we can get more adventurous restaurants with grown-up beverage programs in the future.

  8. POSTED BY montclairdad  |  July 23, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

    Easy solution to that cathar, it’s called, “Bourbon, neat. Water back.” No surprises.

    Of course you didn’t answer the question. Shocking, I know, since all you seem to do around here is bloviate for bloviation’s sake. However, I was asking a completely legitimate question. Why is Montclair a BYOB town? If you know the answer, then by all means share. If you just want to play your regular role, please allow an educated grownup to answer. Thank you.

  9. POSTED BY zidarich  |  July 23, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

    This is a huge blow. In my opinion, Blu was still, consistently, the best food in Montclair. If they can’t make it here, I’m worried who can.

    I have to agree to disagree with Chef Zod, and that I find Montclair’s BYO dining to be advantageous. This is especially true when Montclair’s restaurant with liquor licenses put little to no thought into their wine lists and wine programs.

    Why pay twice the price for a bottle of generic something you can get anywhere when you can go to a store like Amanti Vino, and get an artisanal wine, sold by a staff who actually knows what they’re talking about? There’s not a decent wine list in the town of Montclair.

    Really, really sad to hear that Blu is closing! Big loss for Montclair!

  10. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  July 23, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

    The typical mark up for wine, liquor, or beer purchased at a restaurant is outrageous and a very big part of any profit margin.

  11. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  July 23, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

    montclairdad – the number of licenses are based on the population of the town and the cost is based on supply and demand. So most places are BYOB because they have to be. It isn’t just in Montclair.

  12. POSTED BY deadeye  |  July 23, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

    Completely agree with Montclairdad and Rob.

  13. POSTED BY raeven  |  July 23, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

    I see both sides of the BYOB. On the one hand, if you go out as a couple or small group and everyone just wants a bottle of wine it is hugely advantageous to just be able to bring your own at a fraction of the price. On the other hand, the second people want more than one alcoholic drink (i.e. he wants craft beer, she wants wine) it becomes annoying. And of course, if you want hard liquor or a mixed drink, BYOB is not the way to go.

  14. POSTED BY Conan  |  July 23, 2014 @ 1:15 pm

    This is all clearly Obama’s fault. No. Wait. This is all clearly Boehner’s fault. No. Wait. This is all clearly the fault of those prudish legislators who originally allowed their pockets to be stuffed with currency by some folks who wanted to corner the market in alcohol by the drink as prohibition was ending in 1933. And those guys are probably all dead by now. If a public referendum showed that more licenses are desired, why couldn’t the State or individual townships just start issuing them? The people who own them now bought them on the free market — not from a particular township, so caveat emptor. I think the ideal situation would be full-service bars at restaurants with a modest corkage fee (say $10 per bottle) for supplying BYOBs with glassware and cork removal.

  15. POSTED BY nixonraygun  |  July 23, 2014 @ 1:17 pm

    If the number of licenses is determined by population, how is it that a town like Hoboken can have a bar as every other storefront and so few in Montclair? Population of Hoboken is 52k vs. Montclair’s 38k, nearly comparable sizes. Is it an Essex county regulation? Something to do with a “township” designation vs. “city”?

    Not that I would ever want Montclair to turn into Hoboken, of course! But it would be nice to have a few more bar options and restaurants with bar service.

  16. POSTED BY cathar  |  July 23, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

    Montclairdad, [portion of comment removed] I’ll gladly explain why Montclair is (for the most part) BYOB in its restaurants. Other posters are correct that liquor licenses are based on population and that new ones can’t be created once the saturation point is reached.

    But the legislation which includes the population “formula” when it was passed (which I believe was in the early or mid-50’s) also grandfathered in existing liquor licenses. It didn’t force towns to take back ones whatever their populations then. As a result, places like Garfield and Wallington (two burgs I’m sure a sort who bemoans BYOBS will never set foot in) and even South Hackensack all have many more liquor licenses than they “need.” So that Montclair does not simply indicates that at the time the crucial legislation was enacted, Montclair was not a fun kind of place. At least it was not in terms of fleshpots with liquor licenses.

    Now, montclairdad. you go off and kneel before Zod again. If he ever does get his hands on a liquor license, I’m sure he’ll be happy to charge you $10 for a pint of “craft” beer or even a 400% markup on a nice cold bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.

  17. POSTED BY Gail  |  July 23, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

    hrhppg – You have greatly insulted Zod. He is not just throwing ingredients together. If you had eaten at Blu, you would know that. It is fine cuisine created by an excellent chef. One of the best in Montclair.How sad that he has to leave town because of the antiquated liquor laws.

  18. POSTED BY whippersnapper  |  July 23, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

    Rob – I agree and disagree. It depends on what you plan on drinking and where so kind of apples to oranges at times. For wine, its nice to go to a BYOB..Sometimes beer is iffy cause its bulky and you kinda look like dunce carrying in a case to cater for a group of guests/ keeping it cold is a process so it would be nice for more places to offer that. Cocktails, well made ones, are the worst to come by obviously. Never heard of anyone prepping one to bring to a restaurant..kinda weird. If i were to break down Wine/Had Liquor/Beer id say the 66.66666 etc % you have on your side is a majority, but not one that many people in this town fixate on. I would be interested in being able to park a LL at a different restaurant once in a while. I have a rotation going where the restaurant does a month lease on it. Could be a fun promotion in town done by one of the current inactive owners..if possible it would generate some $$ too.

  19. POSTED BY relax people  |  July 23, 2014 @ 1:55 pm


    You would have 3 more bar options if not for the fact that three licenses are being held and not used by three different owners. Richie Cecere holds one from his now closed restaurant. Jeff Melnikoff holds the second, from the now defunct South Park Bar and Grill. But the true hoarder of them all is Dick Grabowski, who has sat on his liquor license, unused since 2008!!

    That’s three licenses, 25% of the town’s total, that are being held in limbo because the owners either won’t sell them, or can’t sell them hugely inflated prices.

    Does anyone know: is there a legal or regulatory stipulation that dictates how long you can hold a license without using it?

  20. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  July 23, 2014 @ 1:59 pm

    I’m sorry Gail but reading that menu let me know why I had never eaten there. And my comments wasn’t all about Zod, too many local places are just trying too hard. The now closed 12 West was one of them and they had a liquor license.

  21. POSTED BY cspn55  |  July 23, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

    Blu is consistently excellent so sad to see them (and Culinarian though only to Verona where they will now have a LL) go. Their seafood dumpling appetizer in the cocunut broth is among the best things offered in any restaurant, NYC or burbs.

    Montclair however, can’t expect to constantly support what i think are 120+ (thought i read that somewhere or the owner of a restaurant told me that number) eating establishments and not expect to have turnover – liquor licenses or not. Restaurants are always the type of business that come and go and we are full of them.

  22. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  July 23, 2014 @ 2:55 pm

    Cecere’s license sold, I hear.

  23. POSTED BY relax people  |  July 23, 2014 @ 2:56 pm


    Do tell! To who?

  24. POSTED BY montclairdad  |  July 23, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

    See cathar, was that so hard?

  25. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  July 23, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

    I’d rather not say publicly, relax, as I was told in confidence.

    Will say that is someone who is already in restaurant biz in town.

  26. POSTED BY PAZ  |  July 23, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

    BYOB for me, any day, when I was young and still now in the present.

  27. POSTED BY raeven  |  July 23, 2014 @ 4:54 pm

    I’m going to start the undoubtedly false rumor that it sold to Raymond’s–homemade spiked hot chocolate, here I come!

  28. POSTED BY njgator  |  July 23, 2014 @ 6:04 pm

    The current population restrictions on liquor licenses date back to the 1940s. Licenses in excess of the amount that had already been issued were grandfathered into the law. So towns that had issued a ton like Hoboken got to keep them. I think the limit is something like one for every 3,000 residents. Montclair needs to get to 39,000 before they can issue another one.

  29. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  July 23, 2014 @ 6:14 pm

    Ok then, let’s all get to work!

  30. POSTED BY sillyphus  |  July 25, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

    Sometimes the comments are too funny….you other poster won’t share the information I want to know about…or I think it works like this, but I haven’t got a clue. Reminds me of
    “Question: If someone from the 1950’s suddenly appeared, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about life today? Answer: I posses a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers.”
    So for all you lazy people who just look at cats….Homework done for ya

  31. POSTED BY sillyphus  |  July 25, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

    And the cost of LL in NJ is just more corruption….only costs $200 to the state.

  32. POSTED BY paolo  |  July 30, 2014 @ 11:02 am

    There will be a legal notice posted when the Richie Cecere license is formally transferred. The town has to approve the new owners, etc and there’s a formal hearing for that.

    NJ also offers a few loopholes for those who need a license. If you operate in a state facility, a license may be created which is outside the town’s quota. The Erie Saloon (in the Walnut Street NJT train station) is one example. 12 West was another. Montclair State could issue one or more, if the principal use is for faculty or of age students.

    The County issues licenses. As part of the County financing a building for McLoone’s, a license materialized. High Lawn Pavilion has a County license, as well.

    BTW, state law prohibits hard liquor and fortified wine in a BYO. As with many laws, it’s only occasionally enforced.

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