Le Lupanar, the restaurant/lounge at 103 Essex Street, is a step closer to reopening, 14 months after a run-in with the NYPD over underage drinking allegations. This week, Community Board 3’s liquor licensing committee voted 3-2 in favor of an application from owner Kieter Chan to extend the establishment’s hours from midnight to 4 a.m.
In April of last year, Chan voluntarily closed the restaurant after the police department filed a civil suit in State Supreme Court. In addition to underage drinking allegations, there were complaints about late night noise outside the business, which is sandwiched between a parking garage and McDonald’s, just across from the Essex Street Market. The complaint also noted that Le Lupanar, which was opened as a French restaurant five years ago, morphed into a bar/club and extended its hours without gaining proper approvals from CB3 and the State Liquor Authority.
During a community board hearing Monday, Chan said he thought the proper paperwork had been filed, but it hadn’t been done correctly, and he apologized. Chan presented the SLA Committee with signatures from residents, including some who live in the building (Chan’s family owns 103 Essex). There was also a letter of support from the LES Business Improvement District, explaining that Le Lupanar was not a problem location. Chan said he’s already paid a high price in the form of SLA fines and legal fees. He told CB3 members that the NYPD dropped its case.
[The city says it agreed to withdraw the case because the matter was repeatedly delayed in court, and the underage auxiliary officer involved in an undercover operation at Le Lupanar was no longer available to testify.]
Committee Chair Alex Militano was unconvinced, saying Chan had already established a track record of circumventing the community board and could not be trusted. Another board member agreed, suggesting Le Lupanar should close at 2.a.m. while it-re-established trust with CB3. Chan replied that the earlier closing time would put his business at a huge disadvantage in competing with other Essex Street nightlife spots, such as Sons of Essex and Beauty and Essex. Ariel Palitz, a CB3 member and bar owner, said it would be unfair to “set (Chan) up for failure.’
A couple of residents testified on Chan’s behalf. One speaker said the entrance to 103 Essex had become unsafe since Le Lupanar closed. Pleading with committee members, he urged, “Respect the community, please.” Another resident said Chan had already paid a high price and deserved a second chance.
Next week, the full board will vote whether to accept the committee’s recommendation. It will then be up to the State Liquor Authority to decide whether to grant Chan a new license.