A New Team Helps Steer Restaurateurs Through a Thicket of Red Tape

Opening a restaurant in New York City can be as frustrating as trying to brown a wet sirloin. Given worries over fire safety, food-borne illness and waste disposal, a new restaurant may have to contend with as many as 11 city agencies, often with conflicting requirements; secure 30 permits, registrations, licenses and certificates; and pass 23 inspections.

And it will still have to go to the state for a liquor license.

Last month, Erica Livingston, a writer and performer, started preparing to open a cafe with the Fourth Arts Block, a nonprofit arts group in the East Village. She and Tamara Greenfield, the group’s executive director, were amazed by the list of permits they needed. “It was frightening,” Ms. Greenfield said.

But then they met Sohair Botros, a city employee who coordinated their applications and inspections, coached them on how to win approvals, and became their one-stop source for surviving the process.

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