The owner of the Cloister Cafe is suing the State Liquor Authority (SLA) after its license was recently suspended at 238 E. Ninth Street between Second Avenue and Third Avenue.
Here's the official report that the SLA posted:
On August 7th, the New York City Sheriff's Office requested assistance from the state's multi-agency task force at this establishment approximately 12:30 a.m. — well past the 11 p.m. NYC curfew. Investigators found the restaurant operating as a nightclub and hookah lounge with a live DJ, documenting numerous patrons ignoring social distancing with lines of customers congregating in front of the premises without facial coverings, at least twenty patrons consuming alcohol indoors under a fixed roof, and no receipts for food purchases. The inspection identified thirty-three significant fire and life safety violations, with the NYC Sheriff's Office issuing seven criminal court summonses.
The exclusive pandemic parties were reportedly hosted at Cloister Cafe — aka Café Tucano — by Provocateur, a former Meatpacking District club.
One recent attendee told Gothamist, in a story published on Aug. 4, that he saw "hundreds of people, nobody is social distancing, nobody is wearing masks. It’s like the normal club scene. There’s a lot of spenders there. If they do social distancing, they can’t make money. They need to have a packed room full of people to make money."
As Page Six first reported, Cloister Cafe claims that the SLA didn't properly investigate the alleged violations — and just copied the claims from Gothamist, which in part relied on two Instagram posts by "self-styled social-distancing watchdog" Kristina Alaniesse.
"Instead of investigating, the SLA decided to rely upon the Gothamist, which is hardly a legal treatiste," Cloister's lawyer Robert Garson told Page Six.
They believe the closure was "illegal, uninvestigated and uninformed based on a sole Instagram post."
"The liquor authority are acting like … they've imposed a form of [martial law] that they’re not adhering to proper investigation," Garson said. "There are lots of people hurting [in hospitality]. [Owner Nick Drobenko is] taking the fight, not for himself, but for them as well."
In a post yesterday about the lawsuit, Gothamist laid out their reporting that went into the original story:
In fact, our reporting was based on interviews with nearly a dozen people, including almost half a dozen who had been to their events in person. Alaniesse did however post two damning videos which were taken at the spot on July 30th and which were cited by investigators...
Multiple attendees told us masks and social distancing were not being enforced whatsoever at the club, and that parties were routinely going past 11 p.m. and early into the morning multiple times a week.
An SLA spokesperson told this to Gothamist:
[A]ny claim that Cafe Cloister’s summary suspension was based on social media posts or media accounts is demonstrably false. Both the New York City Sheriff’s Office and investigators with the state's multi-agency task force conducted an inspection of Cafe Cloister at approximately 12:30 am on August 7th — more than an hour after New York City’s 11:00 pm curfew for outdoor dining — and documented a multitude of violations, each of which put New Yorkers' health and safety in danger during a global pandemic.
A lot of people have lost a lot since this pandemic hit New York and spread to the rest of the country. Many lost their income, soon many will lose their homes, and far too many have lost their lives to Covid-19. The nerve of a handful of bar - restaurant owners to create large gatherings of mask free patrons and when they are caught creating a health crisis which most likely will play a part on the "second wave" of infections and deaths only reeks of entitlement, greed and a disdain for the lives of fellow New Yorkers. Go ahead and sue since you apparently have enough money for lawyers and not likely in dire need of the income these have parties generated. We are taking names and when this pandemic has passed you are certain not to see support in any way from this community.
It’s time for all of NYC bars and restaurants to sue Cuomo for this indefinite endless lockdown. The rest of New York State has been open for months for indoor dining, there’s zero reason the city can’t do the same. Six feet apart is the same inside a restaurant in Westchester and in the city, masks work the same, etc.
Agree with Noble. Keeping bars/restaurants open is important but not when they flaunt public health and safety for the right to party!
The Constitutional right to freedom of assembly really doesn't make allowances for state governors to suppress it under guise of vague "pandemics".
it is crazy that to go back to any kind of normalcy in the night life scene of new york city is now considered a crime.
Wow this place has some balls
"'Vague' pandemics?" I'm sorry, are the 30K+ dead in NY in six months getting in the way of your sleazy nightlife "promoting" work?
@9:30am: You appear to have NOT paid any attention to the way this virus is spread. Six feet apart indoors is VERY different, virus-wise, than six feet apart outdoors. Inform yourself of the FACTS.
@9:52am: You're ill-informed about the law as well as about the Constitution.
Cloister Cafe's reputation has been, let's say, less than sterling, and now they're spending money (that they must be rolling in) to pursue a lawsuit that they're gonna lose. What a bunch of dopes!
This business operated in an unethical fashion potentially endangering the lives of all us in this neighborhood including countless others indirectly associated with those individuals whom attended these soirees. What goes through someone's mind when they turn a blind eye to what is unfolding in front of them? Do they fail to understand we are just in the first wave of the pandemic? Do they ignore how over 172k people have died this year in the US alone or how NYC was originally the epicenter of it? They knew it was illegal and how it not only went against state and city mandates, but also went against what many other businesses whom are adapting to as well in spite of the imposed limits. What they allowed to permit was wrong. If we want to see our communities and local businesses thrive again one day, we all have to social distance, wear masks, be kind, and hopefully, remain sensible, respectful, and compliant, even when merchants are thirsty for patrons. It will be interesting to see what comes of this frivolous lawsuit.
@9:52 All constitutional rights have limits to protect the health, safety, and rights of others. Your right to free speech, for instance, does not allow you to make threats, slander someone, lie about products you are selling, etc., Your right to assemble has never trumped the ability of government officials to enforce building safety/fire codes that limit the number of people in a given place. The fact that you question the severity of COVID by writing "vague 'pandemics,'" telegraphs pretty clearly that you were not in NYC in March/April/May when there was nothing "vague" about the crisis, and it was pretty clear to everyone that it is, indeed, a pandemic, and not a "pandemic"!
As I mentioned in the comments of an earlier post, I personally saw a lot of what was described in the Gothamist piece as I live on the block. It looked like any other large party scene in the meatpacking district on a Saturday night previous to COVID. I was staring incredulously... angrily... at the blatant disregard of any social distancing and mask wearing. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar.
I have to agree with Noble. Too many bars of long but profit over any concern about their neighbors, and now they’re putting peoples lives at risk. In cities that have reopened too quickly, 25 to 50% of coronavirus cases have been traced to bars and restaurants. There’s a reason why the city and state are being so strict about this, because you cannot depend on the public to keep the spread of the virus under control.
You also have to ask yourself how many of these places are not paying rent anymore or do not plan to be around much longer, so they’re just taking advantage of getting whatever business they can before they finally shut down? My guess is that many of these places don’t expect to be open much longer.
Even the national chains are no longer paying rent. Eater just reported that Paris Baguette is hundreds of thousands of dollars behind on rent in several Manhattan locations. I wonder if they’re paying rent on their location in StuyTown which has already lost 10-15% of its residents?
But if there was ever any doubt that many of these restaurant and bar owners don’t give a crap about anything but money, those days are over.
They aren't paying rent anywhere. The fact is most stores, bars, restaurants in NYC are going to permanently close by the end of the year. It's not going back to the way it was in NYC for a long time if ever. These places don't care because this is it for them anyway. Do people really understand how bad it's going to be economically? Are the tourists and commuters ever coming back?
@10:21am: Yes, it IS a crime to spread a deadly virus among the population.
Let me be the first one to say this: If you so desperately "need" nightlife and risk, move to Florida!
This place is obviously run by douchebags, catering to douchebags. Infuriating that they have stayed in business (so far! maybe not much longer!) while good citizens of the East Village have had to close.
@1:33 PM. Agreed, and by all indications the economic downturn may be worse than after 9/11 due to many people changing their behaviors permanently. So much more business is suddenly shifting to online ordering. If you look at what’s happening in midtown, at Hudson Yards, in the Financial District, on 5th Avenue, in Soho, you can see how the wealthiest and most prosperous areas of the city are imploding. Whether the loss of shoppers, tourists and office workers is temporary, or whether there will be permanent changes in the way people shop, work and travel is uncertain, but it will take years for the city to return to what it was before. Our local businesses know this better than most, and I suspect many will just keep breaking the rules until they get shut down because they know the game is over.
Plenty of other places aren't being jerks and violating the requirements. If yiu want to skirt around it gettinh caught is a risk you take and one cuomo was very clear about for months now. All of the bars I go to have not even tried to reopen. Some shut for good others merged but one thing is clear they don't have a kitchen and also know what kinda a crowd they draw. Not worth it to risk it
YIKES---if SANTACON does not convince EVERYONE that bar owners do not give a S*** about the east village and its residents then WE are all FOOLS :(
The rest of NYS has been open for indoor dining for months now without a corresponding uptick in infections. It’s time to allow NYC to reopen with the same distancing rules before every venue goes bankrupt.
A local business should be respectful of its community and be a good neighbor. Instead they ignored the law and now they want to be forgiven. Sorry.
WOW---we REALLY need to explain this---YUP---the population DENSITY throughout NYC differs from the rest of NYS (infection spreads faster)......
I can't deny or confirm your statement about the rest of NYS now having open bars and restaurants since I live in NYC which has a much denser population, one which still gets visitors from other places (we have three airports and Amtrak). Bars are certainly not doing well during this pandemic but one would think they are the only ones suffering from this situation due to the excessive amount of bars in this neighborhood. Yes I said excessive because most of their patrons come from other parts of the city because we are the the place to "party". A healthy neighborhood should have a balance of businesses which serve the population and over the past decade we have lost too many and bars have moved it, often right next to each other. The quality of life has suffered for residents for the benefit of bar owners. Nobody can predict what the city will be like after this but I am certain it will not be the same. Think of how our city change after 911, Bloomberg era of corporate chains stores and restaurants, the "mallifying" and Disney make-over of Times Square, the big money real estate gold rush and closer to home the East Village monopoly game of people like Jared Kusher scooping up tenement buildings which gutted the soul of our neighborhood. Things will be different and not necessarily better unless we all become away and become activists.
As someone who lives on the block, I can say that Cloister doesn't have a case here. Night after night, they showed blatant disrespect towards their neighbors, as they have been known to do for years.
I have some “advice” for us East Villagers since I had to deal with this personally. Lots of blocks have a block association. Join it!! It doesn’t take that much to go to a couple meetings if you’re concerned about noisy bar behavior infringing on your life. These let you know when a new bar/restaurant is about to come in, and the association finds out who, when, and where. The point is that the new place meets with the community and explains exactly what they intend and the tenants of the block express their concerns. The bar/restaurant then has to write out stipulations of hours, clientele, menu, music, soundproofing, etc. and all the other concerns of the community in order to get their liquor license. Then you negotiate and attend some community board and SLA meetings and speak up if you have to. If all agree, everybody gets what they want in theory, and you call the bar/restaurant if they don’t do what they agreed on, and if they don’t you already have the numbers of the other block members and you All call 311 with a bombardment of multiple very specific complaints so something is eventually done. Power in numbers to ensure you get to live your life without some selfish a holes telling the block to screw off once they get in there. SO WORTH IT.
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