Concern Grows Over Sweet Chick and Fire Hazard Exhaust System at Old Max Fish Space on Ludlow

Posted on: March 13th, 2014 at 5:16 am by

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Where’s Max Fish?

Sweet Chick was apparently undeterred by the uncharacteristic liquor license denial (grandfathered license) back in December by the State Liquor Authority. Indeed, the kitchsy chicken-and-waffles joint still plans on opening an outpost on the Lower East Side, which would be location number two for the Brooklyn-based establishment. As previously noted, the eatery is moving into the space Max Fish called home for two decades – 178 Ludlow Street.

Sources close to the situation report that Sweet Chick had since clarified some “loose ends” with regard to the submitted paperwork, and that the State is ready to reconsider the license in the coming weeks. This development reportedly has tenants of 176-178 Ludlow deeply worried. It was their testimony at the Community Board 3 meeting in last fall which helped sway the subcommittee to disapprove the liquor license in the first place.

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The inside of 178 Ludlow, formerly Max Fish

The opposition argued (and continues to argue) that the age and condition of the pre-war tenement isn’t built for such uses. The storefront never had a kitchen during its previous life as Max Fish (or before), let alone one that would be frying for seventeen consecutive hours (11am – 4am). A circulated petition against the establishment carries the support of nearly 100% of tenants in the adjoining 176-178 Ludlow, as well as business owners on the block.

Moreover, a recent FOIL request revealed the architects’ plans. The blueprints obtained clearly show the intended route of the exhaust system as snaking through the enclosed air shaft between 176 and 178 Ludlow. This is certainly of great concern to residents, since it’s both a fire hazard and quality of life issue. Not to mention, doing so is actually illegal, according to [PDF] The New York City Mechanical Code (Chapter 6, Section MC 607 – Ducts and Air Transfer Openings 607.5.5.2 Limitations).

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There is some talk that the exhaust positioning might have something to do with the Ludlow Hotel and their ownership of the building’s air rights. However, that’s unconfirmed at the moment.

Either way, the case is allegedly falling on deaf ears over at the DOB…

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The air shaft where Sweet Chick wants its exhaust

Finally, there’s the issue of occupancy and egress. When Max Fish ruled the roost, its CO was apparently on condition of being connected to the Pink Pony next door at 176 Ludlow. Doorway access provided a second means of egress in case of emergency. We are told that Sweet Chick sealed off this contact point. What’s more, the back door is of little help. The escape route is an obstacle course of chain-link fences, subway grates (for the F train), and other obstructions. In the words of Admiral Ackbar, “it’s a trap.”

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Blueprints for Sweet Chick, via FOIL request

When asked, the residents of 176-178 Ludlow had the following statement ready:

We are writing as a collective view from the tenants of 176/178 ludlow St

The residents at 176/178 Ludlow St are aware that there is very little they can do to halt Sweet Chick setting up in the old Max Fish space, which involves putting in a full commercial frying kitchen. This is what gives us immediate concern. The petition against Sweet Chick was signed by over 90% the tenants of the 30 apartments in the building as well as many others who live or have businesses on the block.

There was just an air-shaft fire at 41 Ludlow (caused by a cigarette on paper) that resulted in doors and walls having to be broken through by the FDNY to reach it.

The DOB in its wisdom feels that, as the area is zoned for commercial use, a restaurant is permissible and even though the illegality of the exhaust duct is recognized, that “it has to go somewhere,” instead of not allowing a restaurant because legal venting cannot be provided! that’s just great!

We are not against new businesses or new restaurants setting up, but we do feel strongly about those who are only geared toward catering to the party crowd because there’s money to be made, with no regard to those who live in the neighborhood.

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