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.