One of the little talked about but vital and sometimes crushing aspects of opening a restaurant is neighbor relations. Neighbors can protest your liquor license, call 311 on you, and of course, pull a Delicatessen and water bomb the customers. One recent neighborhood tiff has arisen between the residents of 430 East 9th and the newly opened Dirt Candy. First, a letter from the neighbor. Chef Amanda Cohen's explanation to follow:
FYI- I live in the apt building upstairs from Dirt Candy. When Amanda shut off the gas without permission about a month and a half ago ConEd came and shut it down, which was followed by them making the landlord replace all gas piping in the building....at a major cost to the landlord.....and we still do not have gas.
People in the bldg (including myself) are majorly pissed. Super had to distribute hot plates to the tenants in order to cook. No gas and a hole in my floor and ceiling while we wait to have ConEd approve. At least I can get a nice hamburger downstairs.
Sounds pretty damning. But, Amanda Cohen tells a different story. Hers is longer and a bit more involved so bear with us:
Cohen tells us that when she began work on the space, she discovered gas wasn't hooked up to the restaurant. When a plumber came to install the pipes, the landlord and ConEd gave her permission to turn off the gas. When she turned it back on again, the landlord said he would have to turn the tenants' pilot lights back manually on (something she says he never did), During this time Cohen offered to pay all of her neighbors' dining receipts, totaling $2,000.
A few days later, a resident smelled gas in the building, ConEd performed an emergency shutoff, discovered there was a leak somewhere in the building, and told Cohen and the landlord they would have to fix the leak before turning the gas back on.
The DOB arrived and told the landlord the pipes were too old and that at some point he would need to replace them all. He blamed Cohen, Cohen blamed the landlord, and a six week argument—involving some "absurdly high" lawyers' fees for Cohen—ensued. The landlord finally gave in. His plumbers are now installing the pipes, and the neighbors, and Dirt Candy, will hopefully have gas when the job is done.
As if opening a slightly high end vegetarian resto in this economy wasn't going to be enough of a challenge. Any more intel on the tiff from the neighbors, the landlord, or even you pencil pushers at the DOB, send 'em in.
· Eater Inside: Dirt Candy [~E~]
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