Good Morning!

A new mural by artist JR graces the construction plywood at the former home of Mason Dixon bar on Essex Street. For more on JR, see

The holiday weekend in almost here, and the weather looks like more of the same for today and tomorrow: sunny skies with highs in the mid-80s. There are clouds and a chance of showers in Sunday’s forecast, but Independence Day will be bright and hot, with the mercury touching 90. Enjoy your weekend!

CB3 Approves New Joint in Mason Dixon Space

At last night’s Community Board 3 meeting, there was more drama surrounding Mason Dixon, the always controversial-now defunct bar at 133 Essex Street. In the end, the board voted (31-3, with 1 abstention) to approve nightlife operator Matt Levine’s proposal to take over the troubled spot.

Now the State Liquor Authority must decide whether to grant a liquor license for a still-to-be named restaurant.  Residents living in the apartments above Mason Dixon, who are suing current owner Rob Shamlian, strongly objected to the new establishment’s proposed 4 a.m. closing time.

Last night’s debate was similar to the discussion that took place during an SLA Committee hearing earlier in the month. We won’t rehash the whole Mason Dixon saga here (you can read our previous coverage for background).

There were, however, some new wrinkles during the full board meeting. At one point, David McWater, a CB3 member and bar owner, rose to his feet in an angry confrontation with members of 133 Essex’s board of directors.  The question at hand: did residents who bought apartments know beforehand that there was going to be a bar featuring a mechanical bull on the ground floor of their building?  The residents said “no.”  Raising his voice and speaking over condo board president Wesley Gaus, McWater asked, “did you find out before or after” purchasing an apartment?  Although his explanation was mostly drowned out, Gaus said he and other residents had not been aware of the bar until it was too late to do anything about it.

LTO, Mars Bar, Mason Dixon, Hester Street Food Lineup

In addition to our sneak preview of Cafe Grumpy’s impending opening on Essex Street, here’s a roundup of other neighborhood food news breaking today:



CB3 Committee Approves New Restaurant in Mason Dixon Space

It appears the long soap opera involving Lower East Side bar Mason Dixon may be nearing an end. Last night, Community Board 3’s SLA Committee approved (4-2-1) a proposal from nightlife operator Matt Levine to take over the troubled spot at 133 Essex Street.

The current owner, Rob Shamlian, decided it was time to call it quits after the NYPD shuttered the bar last month for alleged underage drinking and other charges.  But scrutiny from the 7th Precinct was only his latest problem. Residents living above the bar have been locked in a legal battle with Shamlian for four years.

Mason Dixon Back Open, but Only on Weekends

Photo credit: An Aussie Girl in New York.













Mason Dixon is finally back open, after being shut down by the NYPD for alleged underage drinking violations April 8th.  But the mechanical bull party on Essex Street appears to be coming to an end. Grub Street spoke with Mason Dixon owner Rob Shamlian about the ordeal and the future of the nortorious nightlife establishment.

Follow-up: the NYPD’s Case Against Mason Dixon

This past Friday night, we broke the news that two Lower East Side bars – Mason Dixon and Los Feliz – were shut down by the 7th Precinct for alleged underage drinking violations. After having a look at court documents, we have a more complete picture this afternoon of the allegations being made by the NYPD.

According to the complaint, undercover (and underage) auxiliary officers have been served alcohol at Mason Dixon, which is owned by Rob Shamlian, on at least two separate occasions (in February and March).  In one instance, city attorneys claimed, alcohol was being served past 4 a.m., which is not permitted under New York state law.

The complaint also recounts several fights that broke out inside and outside the bar in December of last year and in January of this year. On Dec. 4, the document states, a fight “resulted in one person being punched and kicked by five other patrons” (they were arrested and charged with assault). Two nights later, police reported, a “patron was struck in the head with a beer bottle… causing pain and bleeding which required immediate medical attention.”

Matt Levine Hopes to Take Over Mason Dixon Space

Mason Dixon, 133 Essex Street.

We’re sweating it out tonight at Community Board 3’s dreaded SLA Committee meeting. The below-Houston main event so far: a proposal from nightlife operator Matt Levine to take over the shuttered Mason Dixon space at 133 Essex Street.

Armed with a temporary restraining order, the 7th Precinct put a stop to the beer soaked mechanical bull antics at Mason Dixon last Friday evening (we understand the two sides are due in court tomorrow).

Breaking: NYPD Shuts Down Mason Dixon, Los Feliz

The 7th Precinct shut down two more Lower East Side bars tonight. Shortly after 8pm, police converged on Mason Dixon, 133 Essex, and Los Feliz, 109 Ludlow.  Numerous nightlife establishments have met the same fate in recent months, as the precinct takes a hard line on crowd control, late night noise, underage drinking and other issues.

Late this evening, signs were posted on the bars’ doors saying “closed by court order” and restraining order.”  They accuse the establishments of serving liquor to minors and (in the case of Mason Dixon) serving liquor “after hours.”

Mason Dixon and Los Feliz are owned by Rob Shamlian, one of the highest profile nightlife operators in the neighborhood.  Bar owners have complained about the 7th Precinct’s crackdown, which they believe is victimizing responsible owners by focusing on legal technicalities. Police officers, on the other hand, say the tactics are not only intended to address “quality of life concerns” but also to make sure the problems don’t escalate and lead to violent incidents.

Last month, the NYPD shut down the Gallery Bar on Orchard Street. It reopened a week later, after owners agreed to hire licensed security guards and look into improving soundproofing.

We’ll have more on the Los Feliz/Mason Dixon situation after we have a look at court documents.

Koi KO’d by Community Board Committee

If the owners of Koi had any illusions that their "meet and greet" with neighbors the other night would appease the community, they most definitely don't after this evening's CB3 committee meeting. The panel that reviews applications for new liquor licenses balked at the notion of a 200+ seat high end-restaurant taking over the old Salvation Army building on the Bowery. 

The committee heard from three residents opposed to the application on the grounds that the Bowery, already overburdened with "mega-hotels" and sidewalk cafes, has become a "free for all." One woman said the project would "destroy any shred of peace we have left." The owners, explaining their desire to relocate from Bryant Park, said they were determined to be good neighbors. But the committee  was unanimously opposed to the scale of the restaurant (6-thousand square feet). They cited the overflowing street and sidewalk that has made the area nearly unbearable on weekend evenings and the fact that the business would be a destination restaurant, not a neighborhood hangout. The broker managing the sale said the owners had "paid a hefty price" for the building and warned it would likely be "abandoned" if the Koi deal is scuttled (a contention several CB members scoffed at).

Dave McWater, a CB3 member who frequently sticks up for restaurants appearing before the committee, said the project was wrong for the Lower East Side. He asserted that it was important to protect the character of the neighborhood from gentrification and unbridled development. Given the investment Koi has already made, it's a good bet this battle is just beginning.

Jeremiah's Vanishing New York has a complete blow by blow of the Koi debate.

Earlier in the evening, Mason Dixon owner Rob Shamlian and residents who live above the restaurant on Essex Street, faced off — and it wasn't pretty. The two sides have been locked in legal skirmishes for many months — keeping lawyers very busy suing and counter-suing. Tonight, CB3 was considering whether to recommend renewing Mason Dixon's liquor license. Residents complained about noise wafting from the restaurant's (allegedly) open door.

They're also irritated by Shamlian's contention that he's not bound to abide by certain conditions the committee outlined when the liquor license was originally awarded. Among those conditions: an agreement that there would be no live music. Shamlian said he believed the conditions became outmoded after the State Liquor Authority came out to investigate his business. Shamlian said he was "not concerned about the complaints… because they come from people who are malicious." He claimed the residents wanted to push him out of the building months before Mason Dixon had even opened.

In the end, the committee concluded there was little evidence that Shamlian had misrepresented the nature of his restaurant. They signaled their support for a renewal, but reiterated that noise must be kept to a minimum.

Now for a recap of the other LES applications heard by CB3 tonight:

  • Jehann LLC, an Asian fusion restaurant in the old Regate space on Orchard Street, won support for a full liquor license. They'll stay open until 2am on weekends.
  • Jama Restaurant Corp got the committee's approval for a full liquor license at 210 Rivington.
  • The committee signaled its support for Motorino's bid to take over the wine only liquor license at 349 East 12th Street, where the highly touted Una Pizza Napoletana has now closed up shop.
  • The CB3 panel declined to support Bar 169's request to serve alcohol in its backyard. A resident of the swanky Forward Building spoke out against the application, saying she and her neighbors were concerned about noise and cigarette smoke. The owner said he wanted to start serving food – it's unclear whether he'll still go ahead with plans to fire up the kitchen. Committee member Dave McWater, a bar owner himself, urged Bar 169 to forget the patio. Arguing that it's not worth the trouble, he said "you're going to hate yourself for having a backyard."
  • The committee supported Guapo Bodega's bid for a full liquor license at 146 Essex, a former furniture store. The restaurant is being opened by the team behind Stanton Social.