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.
The bar will only be open on Friday and Saturday nights, Shamlian said, because he can’t afford to hire five bouncers every night of the week (something the city insisted on in settlement negotiations). He hopes to sell Mason Dixon to a group led by LES nightlife operator Matt Levine and real estate developer Michael Shah. Shamlian added:
…LES bar owners are united in feeling persecuted and “chased out” of the LES by recent police raids. “It’s overkill and it’s destroying small bars,” he told us in a phone conversation, adding that he and fellow bar owners fear continuing “stings and entrapments.” “We’re very stringent about underage drinking,” Shamlian, a non-drinker, told us. “But these people are professionals and they’re able to able sneak their people in. Bottom line, it’s hard to keep out people who want to get in. The police cadets bribe the bouncers, so you’re serving the police.”
In a recent community meeting 7th Precinct Captain David Miller said, “No bar owner who’s ever had a problem can tell you I did not walk in there first and talk with them personally.” He also told residents that bouncers at some bars (he was not specific about which ones) are asking for bribes from underage drinkers in exchange for admittance.
Another Shamlian venue, Los Feliz, was also shut down but it reopened a week ago. Shamlian told Grub Street he wants to sell Mason Dixon for $300,000. Shah owns the building where the bar is located. Residents in the condo units above Mason Dixon are involved in a protracted legal battle with Shamlian over noise complaints and other issues.