As The Village Sun first reported, business and life partners Ori Kushnir and Sivan Lahat put in the winning bid at $8.8 million under a single-purpose entity.
Kushnir and Lahat have lived in an apartment in the building just west of First Avenue since 2005. They later operated the popular Foxface specialty sandwich shop from the front window in late 2018, drawing crowds and a positive review from Pete Wells at The New York Times.
The quick-serve shop closed last September and planned to relocate ahead of the bankruptcy proceedings here to a larger space at 189 Avenue A between 11th Street and 12th Street. They are now running Foxface Natural, which debuts this coming Wednesday.
There is some recent legal history between the two parties. LIK Hospitality (dba Foxface) filed a lawsuit against owner Lorcan Otway and the William Barnacle Tavern at the address in March 2021.
Meanwhile, Village Preservation is continuing its efforts to have the building landmarked. Per a recent newsletter:
We are deeply saddened to report that [on May 9], lacking intervention from the city, 78-80 St. Mark's Place, the longtime home of Theatre 80, was sold at auction ... This is a tragic loss for our city and neighborhood, and particularly tragic for the Otways, the long-time proprietors of the building and theater.However, this need not be the end of this story. The Otways are still urging the city to intervene to take possession of the building and allow it to be operated by a nonprofit which would continue the work of Theatre 80, and we are still fighting to have the historic building landmarked, so no matter who the owner is, we can ensure this piece of our city’s history is not destroyed. We will continue to work to try to ensure that the cultural vitality embodied by Theatre 80 and the history embodied by this building survive.
There's also a petition in circulation, now currently titled, "Mayor Adams, SAVE THEATRE 80 with Eminent Domain!" As of last evening, more than 8,000 people have signed it.
New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs has also supported the theater's survival efforts. In April, the office expedited granting a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status to Historic 80 Saint Marks Inc., which opened the venue up to receiving various grants.
Kushnir told the Sun that the building needs a lot of work. As for future commercial tenants: "Our first preference is to work with the preservation/theater groups to see if we can find a viable solution for keeping a community space alive in the building."
Meanwhile, the longtime owners, Lorcan Otway and his wife Genie Gilmore Otway, were ordered off the property by a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee on April 5. They have been staying in a room on Ninth Street provided by Father Pat, a longtime friend.
As previously reported, the Otways had been battling in recent years to save the space, which housed Theatre 80, the William Barnacle Tavern and the Museum of the American Gangster. (Lorcan had lived here since age 9 when his father bought the buildings to create an Off-Broadway theater in 1964.)
EVG contributor Stacie Joy ran into the Otways in Tompkins Square Park last week. Lorcan said, "The fight is not over."
I wonder how many of the 8000 who signed the petition understand what Eminent Domain means.
how many sandwiches you gotta sell to have $8.8M in the bank?
Wow! I thought you were going to say some big real estate corporation bought the property at the auction. I didn't expect it to be a local couple that already lives in the building. I like hearing they want to preserve the theater space.
Eminent Domain for this building is such a hilarious, silly idea.
I pray if it gets landmark treatment the building is actually improved since it looks soooo dilapidated now.
I loved Foxface but I don't like how that played out for the Otways, and I hope the new owners will at least let them have their home back.
I'm a little confused by why this purchase is being presented like a bad thing? sure, would be nice if it could survive as a theater but this isn't the fault of the new owners. they don't seem like some evil corporation, isn't this exactly what we want for our neighborhood? If they didn't step in, some big commercial real estate company would come in and bought it to tear it down or convert into luxury condos.
A friend lost a home. It begins and end there. If only both sides could drop the idiotic fighting and the new owners at the very least hook up Larry and Genie with an apartment at a great rate.
I ate at Foxface a number of times when it shared the space — those sandwiches were uniformly sublime! And the various folks working the counter were across the board tthe most hilariously unfriendly, sullen people I can imagine! I used to tell friends, "I promise the sandwiches are worth the attitude." Everyone agreed, and the surliness was kind of entertaining?
I dunno, I feel like this is a story without clear heroes and villains. Despite the fact that this is what we want from our storytelling. People in the EV often have short memories; if you go look at some earlier Grieve posts about the space -- say, from 2015 -- I suspect there's nuance here. But Otway is a fabulous character, and it's a bummer whenever our neighborhood loses character. In any case, I really do hope the new owners will work hard to find a community partner to keep the theater alive.
Lots of people lose their homes, it happens. Hate to break it to you but we don't live in an idealistic world. This is a win for the neighborhood. Case cwosed!
My 2 cents-
A sad day🥊🥊🥊
The otways lost there home n there building-that’s SAD
I hope n pray they can move on n start fresh.
Expecting from new owners is not very productive.
Nothing lasts forever♥️🥮🥧☕️
Foxface sandwiches were so special - the sweetbreads, the camel kebabs, the baby squid, the patty melts with foie, the kangaroo cheesesteaks, the deep fried shark, the braised goat, the soft shell crabs, the blood sausage...all gone in a flash. Wishing them luck with both this real estate purchase and the new spot on Avenue A. I just miss those divine sandwiches..
In the end the Otways suffered from naivete, mismanagement, family health issues and bad luck.
From what I've read and surmised, the Otways time and again did not follow the direction of the court and evidently didn't get legal help needed. I wish they had gotten better advice and heeded the numerous serious warnings that came their way.
And on top of it all, it absolutely sucks that they lost their home. However, one thing everyone should be able to agree on is that none of this is the fault of the new owners.
Wow - my experience with the staff at Foxface was the exact opposite of the previous commenter. Any time I got a sandwich, it was always pleasant - a bit of small talk - and never any sullenness or negativity. So strange!
Unfortunately there are now 2 similar spaces asking the Mayor to step in. Charas is the other one. At this time it doesn't look like he can do anything for either. The city is broke and getting broker so now is a pretty bad time to be asking the Mayor for help. Also, in both cases rehab is needed and neither the Charas people or the Otways seem to have money for this.
Is it being retained as an arts venue?
No big commercial real estate company wanted it, otherwise there were other bids.
Well, if you ask them, they did nothing wrong and it's the whole world's fault, including people who wanted to help them and even loaned them money.
Shouldn’t allow anonymous comments here. Seems suspicious.
I'm sure the terms weren't great but the Otway's did take out a presumably multi million dollar loan out against the property and didn't pay it back. It's not like they hold no responsibility for the predicament.
The personal attacks on the Otways are vile and disgusting. The predatory behavior towards them via personal attacks is complete tragedy pimping.
The whole situation is absolutely nauseating. I wonder if the owners of Foxface (now the winning bidders?) were making rent payments to the Otways during the Pandemic.
I don’t care, I can’t abandon them —Paul Adam (my real first name)
All I’m sure of is Mayor Adams will be disappointing half a million plus potential supporters next election season if he just sits on this without any action
Please sign and share to help Landmark Theatre 80! It's urgent! https://p2a.co/yd94kou Thank you!
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