Judge Dismisses Lawsuit By “No Fun” Against LES Dwellers

161 Ludlow St.

161 Ludlow St.

Back in 2016, owners of the Ludlow Street bar, No Fun, sued the Lower East Side Dwellers community organization for defamation. The other day, the Dwellers put out a press release announcing that the lawsuit had been dismissed in state supreme court.

Operators of the bar, located at 161 Ludlow St., took issue with the Dwellers’ contention in emails and during a public meeting that the night spot lacked a certificate of occupancy. They claimed that this assertion damaged the bar’s reputation. In the lawsuit, the owners went further, arguing that “The Lower East Side Dwellers are on a mission to destroy every establishment with a liquor license on the Lower East Side that does not bend to its will by any means necessary.”

In her ruling, State Supreme Court Judge Lynn Kolter said the case against the local group fell short of the legal standards for libel and slander.

The judge pointed out that No Fun lacked a certificate of occupancy for a “significant period of time,” even if it had obtained the proper permits by the time LES Dwellers leader Diem Boyd made her assertions. Kolter said the plaintiff failed to prove its reputation was damaged (No Fun eventually got its liquor license renewal). She also indicated in her ruling that the libel claim was not made within the statute of limitations.

The Dwellers made their argument under New York’s anti-SLAPP statute (SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuits against public participation). The statute is meant to protect free speech.

In a statement, Boyd said:

Dismissing this defamation suit is a victory for free speech… Our primary concern is for the safety and livability of our communities– we will not be deterred from our mission or intimidated or harassed into silence… We are grateful for Judge Kotler’s vigorous defense of our First Amendment Right, claiming this a victory for every citizen in New York City. Highly profitable bars and nightclubs with deep pockets will think twice about filing lawsuits that target individuals or groups with meager resources with the sole intent of burdening and burying them in costly legal fees in order to squelch their right to speech and protest.

Adam Mehrfar, an attorney for No Fun, told The Lo-Down today:

For No Fun, the legal action was about standing up to bullies who spout falsehoods with impunity.  We believe the decision by the Court is deeply flawed.  We intend to appeal.

Meanwhile, the Dwellers are moving forward with a counterclaim against No Fun under the SLAPP statute.

No Fun vs. Lower East Side Dwellers (Ruling) by The Lo-Down on Scribd

LES Dwellers Face $2 Million Defamation Suit from Ludlow Street Bar

No Fun Bar, 161 Ludlow St. Image via Instagram.

No Fun Bar, 161 Ludlow St. Image via Instagram.

The New York Post reports that the owners of Ludlow Street bar, No Fun, have filed a $2 million defamation lawsuit in state supreme court against the Lower East Side Dwellers neighborhood organization:

A Lower East Side community group hell-bent on shutting down rowdy establishments has finally messed with the wrong business — a bar named No Fun… (The lawsuit claims) that snooty gadflies in the pesky block association “have employed improper and illegal tactics to terrorize restaurants and bars in the neighborhood.” Other establishments targeted by the group have given up and shut down, but not No Fun.

According to the bar’s lawyers, the Dwellers went too far in posting fliers throughout the neighborhood which accused No Fun of operating without a certificate of occupancy and running a night club. In court papers owner John Pierce argues:

Defendants narrow-minded intolerance and disdain for people who do not share their values and worldview (yet patronize their local businesses) is the driving force behind their quest to destroy any neighborhood establishments that they believe are patronized by the ‘bridge and tunnel’ crowd.

As the Post noted, the bar has been fined almost $20,000 by the State Liquor Authority in the past three years. Dwellers leader Diem Boyd (who’s also named individually in the suit) said, “This complaint is meritless legal harassment. We will not be intimidated and will respond to the court.”

CB3 Declines To Reverse LES Dwellers Decision; Policy Revamp Ahead

Community Board 3 rejected a proposal last night to rescind the suspension of the LES Dwellers, a neighborhood organization, but Chairperson Gigi Li said she would convene a group to draft new policies governing how the board deals with block associations.

Borough President Asks CB3 to Reconsider Block Association Policy

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has weighed in on the dispute between Community Board 3 and the LES Dwellers neighborhood organization.

Soho House Decision Day, Ludlow Landmark Application, Dwellers Drama (Updated)

The long wait for a decision from the State Liquor Authority (SLA) regarding Soho House, which  hopes to open a new club at 139 Ludlow St., is almost over. The SLA will finally take up the application tomorrow.

“Dear Dwellers:” Community Board 3’s Letter to Suspended Neighborhood Group

There’s a lot of interest in CB 3’s decision to suspend the LES Dwellers neighborhood group for three months. Here’s the full text of the letter sent by Chairperson Gigi Li to the Dwellers on October 1. 

Community Board 3 Suspends LES Dwellers Group

Community Board 3’s liquor licensing committee will once again take up the controversial issue of The DL, the nightlife venue at 93 Ludlow St., this evening.  But before the meeting even begins, there’s some news about the LES Dwellers, the neighborhood group opposing the renewal of The DL’s liquor permit.

LES Dwellers and CB3 at Odds Over “The DL” and Other Issues

As mentioned a couple of days ago, the Lower East Side Dwellers and management of The DL, the nightlife venue at 95 Delancey St., will be meeting tomorrow evening.  The tri-level entertainment complex has had a rough relationship with some neighbors since opening at the end of 2011.  Another issue that’s come up in recent weeks is the increasingly tense interplay between the Dwellers, a neighborhood group founded last year, and Community Board 3.

Soho House Goes before CB3 Tonight; More Opinions From Patterson, Dwellers

soho house 1

139 Ludlow Street. Image supplied by Soho House.

Tonight’s the night Soho House presents its plan for expansion on the Lower east Side before Community Board 3’s SLA Committee.  The proposal was first floated in February. The private members’ club postponed the application for a full liquor permit at 139 Ludlow Street twice in recent months.  There were numerous open houses inside the former funeral home and an offer to create a community space in the basement.

In the past several days, a high profile Soho House supporter, LES documentarian Clayton Patterson, softened his endorsement of the club somewhat. In his column in the Villager, Patterson wrote that Soho House is the “lesser of what could be so much worse.”  By this, he means that the building could become a boisterous night club or restaurant masquerading as night club, like so many other Lower East Side nightlife venues.

Followup: Arguments For & Against 106 Rivington Liquor Permit

106 Rivington Street.

Earlier this month, we reported briefly on the “500 Foot Hearing” at State Liquor Authority offices in upper Manhattan for Jose Rodriguez and Robert Payne, the team planning to open a Latin-style restaurant at 106 Rivington Street.  Now here’s a more detailed account from that hearing, which pitted the operators and their supporters against Community Board 3 and members of the LES Dwellers neighborhood association.

A 500 Foot Hearing is required whenever the location of a proposed full liquor permit is within 500 feet of three or more existing licenses.  In October, Community Board 3 voted 16-17 (two abstentions counted as “no” votes) to oppose the full bar.  CB3, whose decisions are only recommendations to the Liquor Authority, approved a wine and beer license for the two-level, 200-person occupancy restaurant.

106 Rivington Liquor License Hearing Scheduled for January 10 (Updated)

106 Rivington Street.

Shortly after the new year there’s bound to be more controversy surrounding a proposed restaurant coming to 106 Rivington Street.  In October, Community Board 3 narrowly rejected an application from Jose Orlando Rodriguez and Robert Payne for a full liquor license at this location, which happens to be one of the Lower East Side’s most boisterous blocks.  The board said it could support a wine and beer license, but the owners made it clear they have no intention of downgrading their application.  Now the State Liquor Authority has scheduled a hearing on the matter. It’s going to take place January 10.

A new group, the Lower East Side Dwellers Association, has been fighting the application.  The block association’s leader, Diem Boyd, plans to make the trip to the SLA’s uptown offices for the hearing.  It’s a pretty good bet that there will be a lot of supporters of the restaurant on hand, as well.  The owners hired a prominent lobbying firm, Capalino & Company, to help smooth the way through the approval process. 

Hotel on Rivington Owner Paul Stallings Meets the Neighbors

Hotel on Rivington, 107 Rivington Street.

In a 2008 Observer profile, Hotel on Rivington owner Paul Stallings called himself a “big fish in a small pond” and said he’d been on the “cutting edge” of the Lower East Side “transitioning into what it is.”  The members of the fledgling Lower East Side Dwellers Association would likely not argue with this assessment.  Last night, they came face to face, as Stallings and his team went before Community Board 3’s SLA Committee to renew the boutique hotel’s liquor license.

The LES Dwellers, a new block association making a stand against nightlife proliferation,  returned to CB3 a month after persuading the board to reject another license, for a new restaurant at 106 Rivington, just across the street from the trendy hotel.  Members of the organization complained about late night noise emanating from THOR’s three nightlife establishments (Viktor & Spoils, Co-op Food & Drink and the lobby lounge).  They said party-goers crowd the sidewalk, that delivery trucks and cars block the Rivington Street bike lane and that the hotel’s street-side windows are kept open past 10 p.m. (in violation of a previous agreement to shut them).

CB3 Panel Approves 106 Rivington Liquor License, But More Battles Are Ahead

106 Rivington Street.

The owners of a large new restaurant and bar at 106 Rivington Street prevailed at Community Board 3’s liquor licensing committee last night, but the battle is not over yet.  A divided vote (6-4) means another contentious debate is likely when the full board convenes October 23.

On one side last night: Jose Rodriguez and Robert Payne, who are opening a multi-level Latin-themed restaurant in a four story tenement across the street from the Hotel on Rivington.  They were pitted against residents,  many of them part of a new block association, LES Dwellers, who say the neighborhood’s nightlife scene is out of control.

Rob Shamlian Withdraws Liquor Permit Application For Lounge at 167 Orchard Street

167 Orchard Street.

The other day we mentioned that a new block association, the LES Dwellers Association, is helping residents fight a liquor license application at 167 Orchard Street (at Stanton).   Rob Shamlian (Spitzer’s Corner, Fat Baby, etc.) and Frank Vivolo (Bruschetta) are opening “Tiny Fork,” an oyster bar in the new Slipper Room building.  Community Board 3 signed off on a liquor license for the establishment many months ago, but the operators were seeking  a second license for a lower level lounge, and planned to go before CB3’s SLA Committee Monday night. But now the application has been withdrawn.

Members of LES Dwellers suspect Shamlian and company made note of community opposition and decided to hold off on the application until the neighbors aren’t paying such close attention.  But the organization’s leader, Diem Boyd says “we will be watching.”   Although CB3 approved the initial license in 2010,  it’s still listed on the State Liquor Authority’s web site as “pending.”