State Liquor Authority Blocks New Liquor Store at 393 Grand St.

393 Grand St.

393 Grand St.

The long, strange saga surrounding Seward Park Liquors just got a little weirder.

Last year at about this time, the board of the Seward Park Cooperative decided not to renew the liquor store’s lease, in favor of a new wine and liquor merchant. After a contentious, public battle, owner John DeBlasio vacated the storefront at 393 Grand St. in January. After doing business for more than 40 years in the same spot, he made plans to move to another location a few blocks away.

Both DeBlasio and the new operator, Vin Family Inc., appeared yesterday before the State Liquor Authority (SLA). DeBlasio was approved for a permit at 53 Ludlow St., while the new Grand Street business was denied. In rejecting the liquor permit at 393 Grand St., commissioners said the area was over-saturated.

Vin Family principal, Anastasia Ceballos and store manager, Kevin DeBernardi, plan to file an appeal. Meanwhile, DeBlasio intends to open his new store in a couple of weeks, after renovations are concluded.

Last October, the State Liquor Authority, blocked the new Grand Street permit because Seward Park Liquors had two outstanding violations (one for selling liquor to an underage customer, one for processing a purchase with an EBT card). Fines for those violations were later paid, presumably clearing the way for both liquor permits to win approval yesterday.

While the Vin Family application was listed earlier on yesterday’s agenda, DeBlasio ended up being heard first. In approving the Ludlow Street license, the SLA stated that Seward Park Liquors had no violations since 2002 (there was apparently some kind of bookkeeping snafu). When it was Vin Family’s turn, the commissioners ruled that, while the applicants were qualified, there were already too many liquor stores in the neighborhood. The owner of Delancey Wine, located at 35 Essex St., showed up to protest both new permits.

You can click here to read our past stories regarding the Seward Park Liquors-Seward Park Co-op saga.

53 Ludlow St.

53 Ludlow St.

 

Seward Park Liquors Prepares to Relocate in Early January

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Back in April, the Seward Park Cooperative decided against renewing the lease for Seward Park Liquors, a business that had operated from a storefront at 393 Grand St. for more than 40 years. The move-out is finally happening early in the new year.

Seward Park Liquors owner John DeBlasio tells us he’ll close the shop in the second week of January. The store is not going far, however. The plan is to reopen in a storefront at 53 Ludlow St. (just below Grand Street) by the end of January.

Meanwhile, plans are underway for a new liquor store in the co-op’s space. Paperwork has been filed with the state for “Grand Street Wine & Spirits.” It’s expected to open at 393 Grand once the new business obtains a liquor permit (the application is in limbo/we’re looking into the reasons) and renovations are completed. The shop will be smaller. A gallery, Ramiken Crucible, is expanding into the back section of what is now Seward Park Liquors.

This past spring, board member Darcey Gerstein told us the decision was a tough one, given DeBlasio’s long history on Grand Street. “We value long-term tenancy,” said Gerstein, but it is also “the board’s responsibility to make the best decision for our shareholders, to take into account the price per square foot (a tenant is willing to pay), as well as the value and service to the community now and in the future.”

DeBlasio took his battle to stay in the Seward Park space public, making various claims that did not sit well with Seward Park management. You can revisit that saga in our past stories.

 

Seward Park Liquors Loses Grand Street Space After Co-Op Board Votes

seward park liquors

Seward Park Liquors is losing a space it has occupied at 393 Grand St. for more than four decades.

The owner of the shop, John DeBlasio, has been locked in a tense battle with his landlord, the Seward Park Cooperative, for several months. Following a vote by the board of directors, DeBlasio received a letter today stating that his bid for a lease renewal had been turned down and that the co-op intended to rent the store to another business.

Back in February, DeBlasio posted a notice on his front door, urging residents of the cooperative to lobby board members on his behalf. “I have spent my whole life building a successful business, and I do not want to see it pulled out from under me,” he wrote.  DeBlasio called the decision to force him out “immoral.” He later retracted some of the statements contained in the notice.

The co-op is negotiating final leases terms with another liquor store operator, one that has reportedly run several successful businesses in New York City. Co-op management declined to name the new operator, since the terms of an agreement are still being worked out. DeBlasio offered to pay $90/square foot.

In an interview this afternoon, board member Darcey Gerstein said it was a split vote last night, and a tough call for many of her colleagues. There were financial considerations, she noted, saying there have been difficulties in the past with other commercial spaces owned by the cooperative (non-payment of rent, failed businesses, etc.)  She added, however, that board members were convinced that the new business will offer a higher level of service to the community.

“We value long-term tenancy,” said Gerstein, but it is also “the board’s responsibility to make the best decision for our shareholders, to take into account the price per square foot (a tenant is willing to pay), as well as the value and service to the community now and in the future.”

Some members of the board took exception to DeBlasio’s public letter, citing factual inaccuracies and, as Gerstein put it, “potentially libelous statements” against the co-op and Greenthal, its management company. Others wanted the removal of a lotto machine at the front of the store and the sale of miniature bottles of liquor. This is a move DeBlasio resisted.

DeBlasio said today that he is “disappointed and flabbergasted by the board’s decision” and alarmed that his livelihood is being threatened. DeBlasio said he believes the board has made a series of bad decisions, impacting small businesses and residents, “that are not in the best interests of the community.” He added, “I feel I have served this community to the best of my ability.”

DeBlasio said he’s considering legal action against the co-op.

The new operator plans to lease the front portion of the space, while the neighboring gallery, Ramiken Crucible, will take over the back portion of the store. DeBlasio has been without a lease for a few months. He’s been paying month-to-month during lease negotiations. The changes in commercial leases, we’re told, will mean $60-70,000 in additional revenue annually for the co-op.

Editor’s note: Seward Park Liquors advertises in The Lo-Down from time-to-time. The author of this story is a resident of the Seward Park Co-op. It is The Lo-Down’s policy to disclose whenever there’s a potential conflict of interest in any story.

Seward Park Liquors Battles to Remain in Grand Street Storefront

393 Grand St.

393 Grand St.

The owner of Seward Park Liquors has gone public with his battle to remain in a storefront at 393 Grand St.

A notice appeared yesterday on the front door of the longtime Lower East Side business. It was titled “Urgent Message,” and authored by John DeBlasio,  a tenant in the retail strip owned by the Seward Park Cooperative. The co-op is managed by Charles H. Greenthal & Co., which also oversees commercial leasing for Seward Park.

DeBlasio wrote, “After 43 years of service without missing a rent payment, the managing agent Greenthal, has decided to replace my services. The agent will receive a 6% commission for a new tenant.” He went on to say that the board of directors will be deciding between Seward Park Liquors and a new liquor store operator this coming Wednesday evening. DeBlasio urged co-op shareholders to contact members of the board, “by any means necessary to prevent a new tenant from taking over.” He said Greenthal is acting legally but that the move is, “immoral.”

DeBlasio concluded, “I have spent my whole life building a successful business and I do not want to see it pulled out from under me.”

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In a statement, Seward Park General Manager Frank Durant said, “We are not looking to replace any commercial tenant. We are looking to negotiate a fair and equitable lease term that benefits the Seward Park Housing Corporation and its shareholders.”  He added that it is the responsibility of both management and the board to do that.

According to DeBlasio, he and Durant came to terms on a new lease back in December but then Durant never got back to him to finalize the deal. DeBlasio indicated in an interview on Friday that a “term sheet” given to him would have required Seward Park Liquors to pay approximately $84 per square foot, about the same amount now being paid. There were to be 4% annual increases during the 10 year lease.

Durant, however, said the term sheet simply reflected an amount DeBlasio had been willing to pay and was not a firm agreement from the co-op. Management has contended that the price per square foot being paid by Seward Park Liquors is well below “fair market rent” on the Lower East Side.

Editor’s note: Seward Park Liquors advertises in The Lo-Down from time-to-time. The author of this story is a resident of the Seward Park Co-op. It is The Lo-Down’s policy to disclose whenever there’s a potential conflict of interest in any story.