Follow-up: Shalom Chai Remains Open, Owes $86K, Goes to Court

Today's lunch business was brisk at Shalom Chai on Grand Street.

Today’s lunch business was brisk at Shalom Chai on Grand Street.

Despite numerous reports to the contrary, the kosher pizzeria at 357 Grand St. remains in operation. A legal battle over its forced departure continues in court tomorrow, as the landlord attempts to collect back rent and reclaim the space.

Between serving up slices and dispensing sodas to a bustling lunch crowd, Shalom Chai owner David Tgar told us a little while ago that he intends to continue business as usual until July 31, the date he negotiated with landlord Seward Park Co-op as part of a legal settlement earlier this year.

“It’s all rumors–that we’re closed,” Tgar said, in reference to reports in various media outlets decrying the demise of the Lower East Side’s last full-service kosher restaurant. A marshal’s notice of impending eviction, posted on the door of the restaurant on Friday, May 23, prompted declarations that the restaurant had already served its last pizza–speculation that escalated all the way into a New York Times piece this morning. But Shalom Chai reopened as usual after the May 24 break for sabbath, and has continued normal operations since. “I’m going to stay as long as it is possible,” Tgar said this afternoon.

The marshal’s notice was the latest development in a legal battle that started in October 2013, when Seward Park Co-op sued Tgar’s corporation, Tiferet Food Corp., claiming in city housing court that the restaurant owed $43,798 in back rent and utility charges dating back to March 1, 2013.

Tgar responded in November, denying all the charges. Meanwhile, the landlord alleges, Tgar continued to occupy the premises without paying his rent. After much back-and-forth typical of such cases, the two parties reached a final settlement on April 30. The settlement included a judgment against Tiferet Food Corp. totalling $85,966 in rent arrears, utility bills and late fees. As part of the settlement, Tgar agreed to pay the arrears, as well as his normal rent of $5,700 per month for the months of May, June and July. He agreed to vacate the premises by July 31, even though his lease runs through Feb. 1, 2015.

On or about May 5, the date the May rent was due, Tgar gave a $5,700 check to Seward Park General Manager Frank Durant, which bounced, according to court documents. Tgar says he made good on the check a day or two later and believed the matter was straightened out. However, two weeks later, the  marshal’s notice appeared on the door giving Shalom Chai six days to clear out. In response, Tgar’s lawyers filed motions seeking to stay the eviction through the end of July as agreed.

“I have paid all of the monies presently due  . . . I truly believe that the landlord is playing games in an attempt to evict me. I have done my best to fully comply with the stipulation and orders of this court,” Tgar wrote in an affidavit dated May 27.

A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow morning.

“That does not necessarily mean it will all be decided or a final timeframe set out,” Seward Park Board of Directors President Kate Nammacher said in an email today. “We hope it will, but sometimes these things get drawn out in the courts.”
This is the second time Seward Park Co-op has sued Tgar over back rent. Records on file in housing court show that the co-op board sought $47,102 in back rent from its tenant in 2006; the outcome of that case is unclear because the file has been archived.
The commercial storefronts the co-op owns along Grand Street east of Essex Street have generated several other high-profile cases of tenants defaulting on rent. In 2013, the co-op successfully evicted Noah’s Ark from 399 Grand St. after claiming in court papers that the kosher deli owed more than $200,000 in back rent and utility fees. The closure of Roots & Vines coffee shop at 409 Grand St. in 2012 also led to legal action.