Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Report: Employee allegations made against Local 92 for underpaying staff, skimping on COVID protocols

ICYMI: Mulitple EVG readers shared the link to an investigative piece published at Eater this past Thursday ... in which three former employees claim that Marcello Assante — the restaurateur behind Bella Ciao on Mulberry Street and Local 92 on Second Avenue between Fifth Street and Sixth Street — "refused to pay his employees overtime; ignored coronavirus health requirements issued by city and state officials; and referred to former employees as 'princesses' after they raised concerns about the alleged incidents."

In addition, the employees allege that Shai Zvibak, the former chef and co-owner of Local 92, "characterized Mexican staffers as thieves and referred to them as members of the 'mafia.'"

Assante denied the allegations of the former employees, claiming that three friends working at the restaurants fabricated the stories. "It's completely a lie," he told Eater. "It never happened."

The story also includes a list of alleged misdeeds at Local 92 from the early winter, including that outdoor gas heaters for sidewalk dining were moved inside the restaurant to heat its dining room. Assante also denied those claims, saying the restaurant followed all city- and state-mandated COVID requirements.

Unrelated, Assante had been looking to open a cafe-cinema at 44 Avenue A, the former home of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater's East Village outpost, UCBeast, as well as the Pioneer Theater. He appeared in May and June before CB3's SLA committee.

Given the UCBeast bar's poor reputation and unanswered questions about Assante's business plan, CB3 said they'd only approve a full liquor license for drinks before and during a movie or event. Alcohol sales would not be allowed during other times — thus nixing a bar-cafe service when a film isn't playing.

Assante later said he would no longer pursue this venture for Avenue A, stating that alcohol sales before and during screenings weren't commercially viable given the rent. 

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