In Revival of Epstein’s Bar, Neighbors Fear another Hoodwink
Something fishy is going on over at the vacant Epstein’s Bar on Stanton Street. On the face, it appears only that the proprietor of 310 Bowery Bar is looking to take over operations here. Dig a little deeper, and something doesn’t add up.
Let’s back up first.
Recall that the ouster of Epstein’s Bar from Hell Square in 2015 after more than a dozen years was due to a purported lack of code compliance. This issue persists. According to DOB records, 82 Stanton Street should’ve been a clothing store all along, as its official zoning is characterized as use-group class permitting only “sales of clothing.” During the last twelve months of its life, then-owner Erik McMannus tried to amend the Certificate of Occupancy and expand two floors upward in one fell swoop to essentially legalize the space. The alteration proposal went before Community Board 3 twice, both times withdrawn in the face of neighborhood pressure, and never got off the ground.
Fast-forward current. The proprietor of 310 Bowery Bar, one Rick Aurigemma (also of Corkbuzz), is behind an Epstein’s revival. He’ll appear before Community Board 3 tonight for approval of a full liqur license. This is where it gets weird.Earlier this month, Aurigemma filed a 30-Day CB3 Notice for a new OP liquor license under the corporate name Epstein’s Bar, LLC. The paperwork was pasted to the front door of 82 Stanton Street. However, in the accompanying questionnaire, it states that the application is an alteration of an existing license and sale of assets.
During a disciplinary hearing this past February, the State Liquor Authority agreed to renew the license, which has allegedly been in “safe keeping” by the state since closure. A deal was reached in which McMannus (aka Stanton Restaurant Corp) would pay a $15,000 fine to settle its various violations, and keep the license from cancelation. According to the proceedings, the bargain was reached because the bar reportedly submitted a letter to the SLA that outlined the steps being taken to correct outstanding DOB violations; they revealed that 7th Precinct Commanding Officer, Deputy Inspector Hellman, supported Epstein’s maintaining the license to Deputy Chief Executive Officer Mike Jones, but “could not submit a letter of support as per policy”; and that they submitted letters of support from the “community.”
Meanwhile, 82 Stanton Street itself is still not up to code. There are more than a dozen open ECB violations totaling over $95,000 in fines and an invalid Certificate of Occupancy for the bar use. Also, according to DOB records, their certificate of correction (i.e. to resolve violations) regarding the CO was disapproved and last job filing attempt to legalize the building was also disapproved.
The LES Dwellers – proverbial watchdogs in Hell Square – are doing battle royale on this particular application.
“The worsening conflict between disorder and livability facing this community is not remedied by adding more bars, lounges, and clubstaurants to our tiny streets,” founder Diem Boyd tells us. “We need less not more–and definitely not any relaunches of past problems.”Below is a summary deck outlining what’s at stake here, assembled and circulated by the block association.