DOT Orders Yopparai Ronin to Shut Down Outdoor Dining Pods

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Sometimes it feels as though the city is trying to do all it can to drive endangered small businesses to the brink of extinction.

Just yesterday, Yopparai Ronin posted on Instagram that the city’s Department of Transportation is withdrawing the restaurant’s outdoor dining permit and that of four other nearby restaurants, “to make room for construction of a large private development on our block.” The post continued, “Sadly the DOT’s action puts all of our small businesses at risk at a time when indoor dining is also suspended.”

The original location of Yopparai opened at 151 Rivington St. in 2012. The owners, Gaku and Christy Shibata, were forced to shutter the quirky, cozy space at the end of last year due to the pandemic, but continued to operate two other spots on Clinton Street. Seeking to make the best of a bad situation, they re-imagined one of the spaces (at 69 Clinton St.) as Yopparai Ronin, creating three intimate kotatsu pods outside, and dreaming up an ambitious and inventive omakase menu. At the same time, they continued to offer outdoor dining at Azasu, an izakaya located just a few doors away.

Across the street from Yopparai Ronin, Borough Equities is putting up an 8-story condo tower at 66 Clinton St. You’ll recall, that a nonprofit organization, New Life, sold the property for $8.7 million in 2019. The project includes 12 condo units aimed at the “affordable luxury” market. The developers secured a $17 million construction loan last year.

Yopparai Ronin’s owners noted that Azasu will remain open. They’re now trying to come up with another plan for survival. “If you have ideas or suggestions for how to appeal this action,” they noted, “we would welcome your support!”

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