[Image via Facebook]
Pata Negra, the 25-seat Spanish tapas and wine bar on 12th Street just west of First Avenue, has closed for business as of July 31.
Chef-owner Rafael Mateo told me this in an email yesterday: "10-year lease expired. Cost of doing business and the changing East Village contributed to decision not to renew."
In 2010, Mateo wrote a compelling post (H/T Eater) on his blog about the trials and tribulations of running a restaurant in NYC. He addressed the hell that is the NYC Department of Health.
The Department of Health has been on a witch hunt. I understand the need for transparency with its newly implemented grading system, and further agree with the best conditions for public safety. But make no mistake about it, the DOH agenda is about making money for the city, period. Every day at 66 John Street, hundreds of owners are crammed into a stuffy room with a 10:00 am appointment summons to testify against all of the violations heaped upon their respective businesses during the latest visit from a DOH inspector. The owners are iced all morning; on my latest appointment I arrived before 10 am and was seen at 3:30 pm, all for an opportunity to be heard by a “judge”, whose qualifications are suspect. The owners are called like cattle into a room with the “judge”. A tape recorder is turned on, the owner speaks, and then the “judge” sends the owner back into the lion’s den awaiting some 45 minutes for a verdict. The verdict is an average of $2000. in fines. There are hundreds of owners there per day. Do the math. $$$$
That’s the cost of doing business. This has become my favorite go to expression for unforeseeable, necessary expenses and costs that a business commands. The DOH paid me a visit in February. Fine, $2000. I fixed the violations. Then they paid me a visit in October and I received 17 points which amounts to a “B” rating (13 or less for an “A”). The Inspector said he was sending me another inspector in a couple of weeks. He stated that I had a potential for an “A” if I fixed certain violations. Four weeks later another inspector came in and fined me 21 points for completely different violations. She awarded me a “B” with a grade pending, meaning that another inspector will be paying me a visit in the next month as well.
In a follow-up note today, Mateo said that in 2017, the DOH is better at working with business owners rather than just using the system to generate income through excessive fines.
"On more than one occasion, inspectors were helpful to me in finding solutions to problems and were collaborative in education. As a result the business received fewer violations and more A ratings. The desired effect of my blog post, and the ensuing press made some impact (I believe) ... While it is still far from perfect, it has improved drastically since Mayor de Blasio has taken office."
He offered more insights about the East Village business environment in this blog post from February. It offers more insight into why it wasn't possible to stay in business.