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Matt Levine Hopes to Take Over Mason Dixon Space

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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).

For the last couple of years, residents of the condominium units above the bar have complained bitterly about late night noise and drunken crowds. They have gone so far as to sue Mason Dixon’s owner Rob Shamlian. Tonight Michael Shah, who bought the building a few months ago, said Levine’s proposal was a way out of the protracted conflict.

Levine said he wants to open a “New American” restaurant in the space, featuring cuisine honoring the neighborhood’s history. He mentioned Irish, Polish and German specialties and an “array of mac and cheeses.”  The massive Mason Dixon bar would be cut in half and the kitchen expanded. Levine, who lives a few blocks away, called the new spot a neighborhood restaurant — an establishment that would not cater to the “bridge and tunnel crowds” that have overtaken the Lower East Side on weekend evenings.

Several residents spoke in favor of the idea, saying they were big fans of The Eldridge, which Levine recently sold. But several residents of 133 Essex demanded that the proposed hours (4am on weekends) be reduced. Levine said he was unwilling to compromise on the hours.

Shah said it would not be economical to cut back the hours. He told the committee and the residents the alternative would be living with Mason Dixon.  Levine added, “I’ll find another spot. You’ll be stuck with the vomit on the sidewalk.” Those remarks didn’t go over very well in the sweltering meeting room.

In the end, Levine withdrew the application. He met with the neighbors last week. It remains to be seen whether another meeting will be scheduled to resolve the conflict — or whether Levine will cut his losses and search for a new venue.


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