Locals Suspect Newly Appointed CB3 Member Is Linked to Avenue B Restaurant Project

45 Avenue B/Google images.

45 Avenue B/Google images.

Community Board 3’s liquor permit committee last night balked at supporting a wine and beer license for a new restaurant at 45 Avenue B, citing the operator’s ties to an infamous night club. Much of the conversation centered on the man who wasn’t there, Sameh Jacob, former co-owner of Le Souk. While no one mentioned it last night, Jacob was just appointed as a member of Community Board 3.

The applicant is Lamia Funti, manager of Le Souk, now located at 510 LaGuardia Place. She outlined plans to open Lamia’s Fish Market, a restaurant and retail fish store with seating for 160 people. It would be located in Le Souk’s former Avenue B space, which has been vacant for the past seven years. The State Liquor Authority canceled the club’s permit in 2009, citing overcrowding and other “health and safety issues.” Funti is married to to Marcus Andrews, Sameh Jacobs’ brother and business partner.

Members of the East 4th Street Avenue A to B Block Association spoke out against the application. Funti said her husband and brother-in-law have absolutely nothing to do with the new business, although Marcus Andrews owns the building. The local residents weren’t buying it.

A leader of the block association, Frank Macken, said, “Personally, I don’t see how we could possibly support this application, given the history of the family involved.” Mark Hannay, the association’s co-chair, cited violent incidents at the new location in the West Village. They include an episode last summer in which a man was stabbed in the face with a “sharp object” during a late night altercation.

In a memo to the board, Hannay mentioned another restaurant owned by Marcus Andrews, Falucka on Bleecker Street. He said Community Board 2 had voted to deny a liquor license renewal for the location, because the venue was being run contrary to its “approved method of operation.” Other residents talked about the lengthy struggle against Le Souk on Avenue B, which infuriated neighbors with its loud, unruly and sometimes violent crowds.

Committee Chairperson Alex Militano went into detail regarding Sameh Jacob’s legal troubles. News reports and court records show he was sentenced in 2014 to two years in prison for using “structured account transfers” from his restaurants to purchase real estate. Federal prosecutors accused Jacob of making cash deposits in small batches to illegally circumvent bank reporting laws. “Once he was convicted,” said Militano, “he clearly changed the ownership of 45-51 Avenue B LLC.”

During questioning from Militano, Funti said Jacob isn’t involved in the new venture in any way. “He doesn’t even know the menu or the concept or anything,” she explained. As for her husband, Marcus Andrews, Funti said he’s simply her landlord on Avenue B and has no involvement in the new project. Asked if Andrews owns Falucka, Funti said, “No.” [His name is listed on the liquor permit on file with the State Liquor Authority].

The Manhattan Borough President’s office has not yet released the names of this year’s community board appointees. But during a Community Board 3 meeting last week, Chairperson Gigi Li named the new members. They included Sameh Jacob. The borough president selects board members and oversees the screening process.

As for the current permit application, Militano acknowledged that the State Liquor Authority typically approves wine and beer permits, even when local communities object. But in this case, she told Funti, “I think (there’s) a sufficient history for the SLA to not grant you a beer/wine license.” Committee members agreed, voting to deny the application.