[Image via Facebook]
As first reported last week, Manitoba's at 99 Avenue B is in danger of closing.
Owners Handsome Dick Manitoba and Zoe Hansen wrote in part:
Due to a small wrinkle in the interplay between State and Federal law, Manitoba’s was recently forced to reluctantly settle a case with a private individual for a cumbersome amount that threatens the future of the establishment.
Our backs are against the wall. Our ONLY choice, after being advised by several very competent lawyers, was to settle.
Manitoba’s, its proprietors and patrons, are the very fiber of the East Village — The same East Village that is now being commoditized at an alarming rate and manifesting itself in the form of tenants in expensive apartments levying noise complaints at 8 pm.
This is a battle cry for help. Please don't let Manitoba’s meet the same fate as other business institutions that have recently been forced to close.
Understand this please — this situation is not part of what you would call, "business as usual." It's not a fine, and it's certainly not business mismanagement. We either pay, or shut down. Not one penny goes into the owner's pockets, or is being used to pay bills. All of it goes to settling this claim and keeping the bar open.
Manitoba's launched an Indiegogo campaign on Monday. If this is of interest, then you may find the crowdfunding page here with the various incentives.
Aside from Indiegogo, Manitoba's also mentioned concerts and auctions as ways to help raise the necessary funds.
According to several published reports, the campaign is a result of "a settlement with a man who has sued dozens of businesses under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to court filings," as DNAinfo put it. The man, a former East Village resident identified as Luigi Girotto, 50, has reportedly sued at least 27 other businesses for failing to provide accessibility, according to court papers that DNAinfo obtained.
Gothamist has more on the story here.
According to court papers, this Girotto guy sued for just $500 plus lawyers' fees. Manitoba's is trying to raise $25K. $500—let's even say $5,000, given we don't know what the lawyers' fees were like—doesn't seem to be a "cumbersome amount" (they've already raised well over that at Indiegogo). And wouldn't insurance cover some of this fee?
I'm just genuinely confused by this story, not insinuating anything, before anyone yells at me that Manitoba's is an institution and to move to the suburbs. One, I know; and two this wasn't a even noise violation issue according to Gothamist this was a disability access issue (i.e. the bar has no exterior ramp for wheelchairs).
To say that Manitoba is an EV institution is an insult, and a punk bar on par with CBGBs is even more insulting. But what's even more infuriating is that the owner tried to fight the disabilities act that allowed for accessibility to those who did not have access. How much would it have cost to settle the $500, and use the legal fees the owner racked up to build a ramp or level the entrance to sidewalk grade?
How this story keeps evolving shows the danger of not knowing all the facts. This is not apparently a case regarding noise complaints but Girotto's suit is regarding wheel chair access to this bar (something he has reportedly done to other businesses already). There are many businesses which do not have such access due to the architecture and age of the buildings in the EV. Suits like this could mean big trouble for small businesses at these locations. The law Americans with Disabilities Act is important for the millions of Americans who have been unable to live lives as the able due to stairs and inaccessible entrances however I believe there is some room in this law for businesses located in buildings which make it unreasonable to demand ramps and larger entrances. When I opened my business 15 years ago here (not retail) I was concerned about this law but fortunately Mr Girotto has not paid me a visit.
Disgraceful. These guys can't cover this? Ridiculous. Glad people have their priorities in order. Giving this bar money? Unreal. NYCares can't get coats but Manitobas gets 8k and counting?NYC 2015 gotta save the bars- screw everthing else. A pox your market rate apts.
Maybe not a "punk EV institution" but I will say it is unlikely a bar like it will open in the future. We know what kind of bars open in the EV these days, sports bars, bro bars, themed bars and pretty much anything lacking soul or a rock n roll pedigree. The owners probably were too punk in this case and should have shelled out the $500 for the fine or whatever than fight this case. Perhaps they should have heeded The Clash's warning "I fought the law and the law won".
$500 in damages is the maximum amount allowed by law for such an ADA suit. It's a given that Manitoba's would lose the case, as the bar is not wheelchair accessible, but it's not the $500 damages that they're worried about -- it's the plaintiff's legal fees that they'd be responsible for, and they'd be large. Indordinately so, and likely much bigger than 25 grand.
The plaintiff, Girotto, lives upstate and has possibly never even set foot (figuratively) in Manitoba's, and he doesn't have to have done so in order to file a suit. He's filed a lot of them, too, with the Florida law firm he uses making large profits in settlements, and without having to actually go to trial. It's a scam and an abuse of a well-intended set of anti-discrimination laws.
The update on Gothamist helps clarify the story, as Manitoba's fundraiser plea was needlessly vague and pretty poorly written. Could be that they can't get into the terms of the settlement, but even mentioning noise complaints was bound to create confusion.
A commercial insurance policy covering the business for damages (slip and fall, say) may not cover a judgment or settlement stemming from failure, if you will, to comply with the law. Still, a yawning disconnect prevails: how much, exactly, is the business out of pocket here? And more important, what do its expense reports and balance sheet tell us about its current financial situation? Everything's above board and in good order, right? Where does the money raised via social media go, exactly? Who administers it? One person? Two people? To borrow a phrase from a worthy evg competitor, just asking!
Why is ADA compliance the responsibility of this commercial tenant and not the owner of the building? This makes no sense to me.
I hate when people make their private messes public. Really?
I have a pal up in Woodstock that knows a guy who makes big money on these types of scams, maybe it's the same guy, who knows. Anyway he goes into businesses (with the help of scum lawyer) like say a mcdonalds with a dog and if they won't let him eat with his "therapy dog" he blackmails them into paying up. It's a really profitable thing.
Dick is a legend, so fuck the CBGB stuff. He's well on his way to making his nut so there u go.
The lawsuit against Manitoba's alleges that it is not accessible to people with disabilities. The case is Girotto v. Genco Importing (Manitoba's DBA), 1:14-cv-05091-VEC in the Southern District of New York. The case was dismissed December 11 with leave to restore if the parties are not able to reach a settlement.
I bet Manitoba's is over a barrel paying the fees of the Florida-based attorneys who represent the plaintiff. Otherwise, the complaint only demands $500 damages and that the bar be made accessible. If the $25K goes to install a wheelchair ramp, that's not such a bad thing, though. Would be a shame to lose that place.
I'm sorry for Manitoba's, but I'm not sorry for businesses that do not comply with the law.
I like how Dick on the Manitoba twitter account keeps posting a link to an article from the conservative shit publication FrontPage Magazine about people that exploit the ADA. That's smart and also very "punk".
Read the different accounts of this. The guy lived in the EV and is wheelchair bound due to a spinal chord injury sustained in an accident. While he doesn't live here anymore his kid apparently attends school here and the went to the bar together as the plaintiff wanted to have a drink with his son. It was raining and the guy couldn't get in because they had no ramp, not even a temp one. So he stayed out in the car, while the son went in. Of course this is his version of the story. Having had my company sued a few times by former employees for all kinda stuff after they get fired, I can tell you that you settle these cases to avoid the legal costs of going to trial, so I can't see how Manitoba's needs this kinda cash to deal with this. If that had to go to trial the bills can add up pretty quickly, but not for a settlement . . .Finally how big of a deal would it be to keep a temp ramp in the basement and just bring it out when requested. You can get them pretty easily. There are lots of people in the hood who would really appreciate it, including those of us who some ambulatory issues that are not in a wheelchair. Guy sounds more like a disability activist then a scam artist to me so . . .
Most punk rockers are right wing. Most rockers, in fact. Joe Strummer was the exception.
Ken, That's easy enough. If you operate a business, you are responsible for complying with the laws that apply to that business, not the landlord.
$20 for a shout out and thanks?
I know they got to toot their horn to raise funds. However, if this bar is 'thriving' as said in the description, why does it still need to raise $25k plus (the original indie-gogo blurb mentioned fundraising concerts/auctions in the future). Also, what makes it an EV landmark? Is it the photos on the wall that has probably been there since opening? is it the trivia night? is it the very high staff turnovers?
the son is kind of a dick huh? "Well dad, you can't get in the bar so just sit here in the car while I go have a cold one". Real punk is "Destroy the Handicapped"
I've lived in the East Village over 20 years, and I've never heard of this place until now. Has it always been in the same location?
And I don't mind pitching in to help a small business like Ray's, but I am not going to give money to a bar. If they are an institution that's been going strong for 15 years, they should have money.
Their money raising campaign appears to be going quite well. However, I'm wondering why they only offered 100 of the autographed photo? Those should be unlimited.
This is all moot. They already have almost 17k. I've been there before but now I'll never return. Bad business run by bad people. Good to know where the priorities are. Think the Bowery Mission could raise this much so quickly? Yes give to the right wing white rocker and screw the homeless. That's the EV in 2015.
@anon 2:40, Yes as we all know, people like Greg Graffin, Mike Ness and Milo Aukerman are all staunch Republicans.
I was going to make a donation to support cancer research, but I will give my money to this more worthy cause.
Here is more about Girotto's attorney:
B. Bradley Weitz, the managing attorney at The Weitz Law Firm, was described by Forbes as running a "lawsuit mill." In 2013, he and his colleague, Adam Shore, were rebuked by U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. for "charging excessive fees, practicing shoddy law, and possibly concocting the mysterious (plaintiff), who repeatedly failed to show up in court to prosecute his own lawsuit." The New York Times reported that Weitz and Shore "typically (charge) $425 per hour for a total of $15,000 per case" and "had filed as many as 10 cases in a single day."
When the Republicans talk about tort reform, this is the type of lawsuit to which they would put an end. Scams like this one raise costs for everyone, raise rents, raise prices.
The american bar association (sic), the front for the lawyers, is a huge contributer to the democrat machine.
(the repubs suck, too, but on this one I think they have it right)
I agree we need tort reform, but what the Republicans want to do is to take away most individuals rights to sue companies for any damages due to negligence. Of course for big businesses they would retain all rights to sue anyone they like since is Mitt Romney once said, corporations are people too, they are just more important people than me and you.
Some of us diversity-loving, tolerant EVers are ready to condemn the "right wing" way too quickly. Leaving aside that HDM is an institution and a living, active link to the EV's high point in the arts; if you're willing to condemn him for linking to Front Page you are not really a free thinker at all. Thought police in the EV? And I thought the bros were bad. "Hippies are squares with long hair..."
No law passed is perfect no matter the how good the intentions are there will be people who will abuse it. This is unfortunately human nature and regardless of political party affiliation.
Apparently this wasn't just about a front door ramp. According to BedfordandBowery: the complaint also alleged alleged that "the entirety of the bar is taller than 34 inches, in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. It also cited failure to provide handicap access to the lower-level game room, a video game, and the jukebox, among 19 other alleged violations."
I'm average height. 34" doesn't even come up to my waist. There isn't a bar or restaurant with a bar in the neighborhood that I can think of that is ADA compliant. Sorry, but this is nuts.
How the fuck would they provide access to the basement? I mean some things are just ridiculous and unfeasible in certain buildings.
Then don't have a basement. Your wonderful attitude is why the ADA was passed.
BTW our recently indicted speaker Sheldon Silver was using an NYC lawfirm called Weitz & Luxenberg to provide legal cover for his slush fund bank account into which developers would pay their bribes ... any connection I wonder?
Maybe businesses should be in compliance with federal law. The ADA isn't exactly new. And its on the business owner. Hope none of you who are complaining ever end up in a wheelchair or having mobility issues. You might have a different attitude. Funny how now everyone is pro business and anti the.disabled. Go get drunk at Manitobas and bash someone in a wheelchair. Whatever.
January 22, 2015 at 1:06 PM
This is about a Florida law firm that takes advantage of badly written legislation by "hiring" guys like Girotto to legally extort biz owners. The actual fine is only $500. It's because of the threatened exorbitant legal fees that this bar had to "settle."
There are probably better ways than this to force compliance. This law needs to be rewritten so that business owners who get cited get an "F" grade for compliance or something and then have some kind of time period in which to comply. In this case, I doubt that compliance would cost as much as the shyster legal fees.
And you name one bar or restaurant or lunch counter for that matter *ANYWHERE* where you've seen a 34" high handicapped parking at the bar or lunch counter. It's crazy.
The momentum on the indiegogo dropped when the $25 photos and the $75 shirt/photo combo sold out. Hey Handsome - get more photos and shirts listed asap!
The alleged plaintiff NEVER intended to set foot in Manitoba's -- he just found yet another target for one of his scam suits. If he couldn't get inside, how would he know the height of the bar, jukebox and cash register, all of which he claims are too tall for him?
In order for ANY bar to be ADA compliant, non-disabled customers would have to bend over waist high to get a drink or to select a song. That's absurd!!
It seems as though the ADA was written by lawyers to assist other lawyers in getting rich with ADA discrimination suits that cannot be won by defendants.
A more reasonable solution, if there was a TRUE desire to make businesses wheelchair accessible, would be to give alleged offenders a time period by which to comply with the ADA. Law suits that can jeopardize the operation of businesses is NOT a solution.
If only the victims of this prick and his lawyers could be nailed for their frivolous law suits. Perhaps a class-action suit against them and complaints filed with the American Bar Association would be a start.
Well now I'm wondering, if this Girotto dude is a professional victim, why he decided to go after Manitoba's. Surely there are dozens of equally noncompliant bars in town with much deeper pockets than this particular bar. Seems unlikely that the choice was random.
@ anon 10:24
The DNAinfo article also said that he sued Casimir.
The father of three then tried to go to a restaurant next door, Casimir, but was unable to enter.
He filed suit against the restaurant as well.
“I think it’s a racket,” said Casimir owner Anton Brune, 25, who took over the business about seven months ago. “It’s too easy to sue in New York City. We are a small business just trying to survive.”
Yes being ada compliant is a racket. Unreal.
January 23, 2015 at 2:59 PM
Do a little research. It's about impossible to be ADA compliant as the law is currently written and there are a number of law firms that are exploiting that.
When the Bowery mission needs help are people as concerned and helpful and giving? Of course not. Always amazing what people will donate to. But its the rich or the republicans who are uncaring. No coats for NYCares but tens of thousands for a damn bar? Guess I cant be surprised. The EV has made its priorities very clear
PS - go fuck yourselves
Handsome Dick dropped me as a Facebook friend when i wrote Jesse Malin wears a rug
This is Handsome Dick Manitoba
It is not worth my time or energy to answer MOST of the above.But I WILL spend 3 minutes... People all over the world who KNOW me have responded. And with GOOD REASON. Examine THE FACTS of the case. PERIOD..But why should you?, then you wouldn't spend/waste your life online spouting about something you know ZERO about. AND, Legendary Punk Bar?...Not my call but the way people the world over have seen it,. Like from the 15 countries alone I have played in this year
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