Arrivederci, Il Bastardo? Owners Close Shop as a New Applicant Emerges | chelseanow.com

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Arrivederci, Il Bastardo? Owners Close Shop as a New Applicant Emerges

Rowdy revelers who once relieved themselves al fresco and used the curb as a couch no longer have Il Bastardo as a weekend destination for booze, brunch, and bad behavior. Chelsea Now file photo by Scott Stiffler.

BY WINNIE McCROY | After mounting complaints and fines over years of unsanctioned behavior caused the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to revoke its liquor license, the Chelsea restaurant Il Bastardo has finally shuttered operations. But some local residents are concerned that its management company may be attempting to apply for a new permit at the same location, under a different name.

For the past several years, Il Bastardo, an Italian restaurant at 191 Seventh Avenue between W. 21st and 22nd Sts. in Chelsea, has earned the ire of locals because of raucous weekend brunches that regularly pepper the immediate and surrounding area with noise and disorderly behavior, as well as the occasional violent incident requiring police intervention.

On June 21, the restaurant company Mangaroni, LLC and owner Tarik Alam appeared before the SLA Full Board for a hearing, represented by attorney Thomas J. McCallen, Esq. The attorney told SLA Chairman Vincent S. Bradley that he had called to find out about earlier court proceedings during which the SLA imposed a $10,000 civil penalty on the restaurant, only to discover that the business had surrendered their license and closed the restaurant.

“They wanted to operate and fight [the charges], but that has changed,” McCallen explained, saying, “You wouldn’t wish enemies the debt that he has, and right now he surrendered the premises in order to be released from his personal guarantee on the lease and $1.8M SBA Loan, and that $10,000 is going to go to getting release of personal guarantee with the landlord. I’m here to have it all consolidated… I’m asking that they be modified and amended and merged.” 

McCallen attempted to get SLA to wipe the slate clean on Il Bastardo’s litany of offenses and fines, but was told that their conduct was “so atrocious” that the SLA would not dismiss the $10,000 fine, with Bradley telling them, “If it’s not paid by Friday, we’re sending out the revocation order.”

With that option off the table, McCallen negotiated for an extension on the $10,000 payment, which Bradley was amenable to, saying, “A new letter is going out, saying that your counteroffer accepted is $10,000 and cancellation of your license, and everything will be merged into that. However length of time you had to pay last time, you’ll have on this, starting from the date you get the letter.”

Chelsea Now reached out to McCallen at his office, and he confirmed that imposing fines on a closed business is “a normal thing for the SLA,” and that this final action should conclude all business at Il Bastardo.

Some local residents were pleased to hear of the closing, with Diane Nichols of the 20th Street Block Association penning a letter of gratitude to Community Board 4 (CB4) and elected officials Senator Brad Hoylman, City Councilmember Corey Johnson, and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried.

“We were recently advised by Margarita Marsico, Esq., Associate General Counsel of the NYS Liquor Authority, that the club is now closed,” wrote Nichols. “My neighbors and I are delighted to stroll down the street and not be overrun by drunk and disorderly people. We were also lucky to have Bill Borock lead the way in the fight against Il Bastardo.”

William Borock, President of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations (CCBA), has been very vocal in his disapproval of the restaurant’s method of operations, joining Nichols and others to testify before the SLA. He said he thought this had a big impact on the restaurant’s decision to give up the fight.

“They knew community testifying was a problem. The commissioner had warned them to be prepared — and so with the fine and another hearing coming up, I think that’s what did it,” Borock said. “Then I was told that they were going to hand in their license, but that it was a conditional thing. That was in lieu of the new hearing coming up, but maybe they were concerned there would be more fines.”

“The SLA revoked their liquor license so the businesses decided to close up. Unfortunately, operations must have crunched the numbers and recognized that with their mode of operation, liquor sales were the only way to stay in business,” said Jesse Bodine, District Manager of CB4.

“It’s unfortunate this had to happen because of these longstanding issues brought to the owners and managers for years now,” Bodine said, speaking about the specific business model around weekend brunches that seemed to have caused a negative impact on the community, noticed not only by CB4 and the NYPD, but also the SLA.

“For us, it goes back to the Board highlighting to the owners all these issues the community and these enforcing agencies had, and the Board feels it’s truly unfortunate this is the result. We would be more than happy to see a neighborhood-friendly, well-run, safe restaurant there,” Bodine added.

Borock initially seemed pleased that the reign of Il Bastardo has ended, noting, “the curtains are drawn and people are taking things out of the building, and I’m told they’re giving up their license.” But the question on his mind is, what comes there next?

“We don’t want Il Bastardo 2 coming there. Because it’s such a large building, I would suggest to the landlord building a wall and making it into two smaller places. That way they wouldn’t have to deal with finding some other place who wants to put another club there as a venue,” Borock suggested.

Although CB4 has a very limited involvement and scope in the small businesses that come to their district, Bodine said they work hard to promote their success, holding monthly office hours to teach small business owners solutions like how to train staff or how to negotiate a commercial lease. He even noted that an Il Bastardo manager attended one of these workshops in the past. Bodine said CB4 wanted to educate, inform, and welcome small businesses, in the hopes they will succeed.

“No one had a desire to see Il Bastardo close. We wanted it to be a neighborhood-friendly restaurant. And I think for a certain amount of time they were; at least during the week, if not necessarily during the weekends,” Bodine said. “We want business and commerce, and of course we want to see a business there that is successful, and we will be as helpful as possible to it. But I think we can be smart about it, going forward.”

A sign on the shuttered Il Bastardo gives notice of an application scheduled to go before CB4’s Business Licenses and Permits Committee on July 11. Photo courtesy CCBA.

Whatever tenant or group decides to occupy the space, they have every right to design whatever business model makes sense to them, Bodine added. But these situations are a unique way to learn from the past, he noted, saying that it would behoove the new business owners — be it partially old ownership or a whole new tenant — to take a page from history and know what’s not going to work.

“We hope whoever takes over that space and eventually applies for a liquor license recognizes the best route to go forward,” Bodine said. “The size is a significant issue, but it’s a perfect chance to design a plan that’s going to be beneficial in the long term.”

But the community is already rallying to ensure that “Il Bastardo 2” doesn’t return. Borock took a look at the Public Notice posted on the closed restaurant, and saw that the person applying for a new liquor license and sidewalk cafe was Kristin Sollenne. Other CCBA members and associates noted that Sollenne had been involved with Bocca di Bacco restaurant on Ninth Ave. and W. 20th St. (which is also owned by Mangaroni, LLC), and that Sollenne was actually married to Bocca di Bacco owner Robert Malta.

Borock is now urging residents of Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen to come out to CB4’s Business Licenses and Permits Committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tues., July 11 on the 4th floor at Yotel New York (570 10th Ave., at W. 42nd St.) to “make sure Il Bastardo, or something similar to it, does not come back to our community again.”