Friday, January 11, 2008

'...we continue to run with a high level of alert...'

According to Death & Co. co-owner Dave Kaplan, the report in The Villager (third item) is rehashing old news and that this is just yet another cycle of rumors that Death & Co. is on the brink of closing that's been going on since the place opened.

"We've been the subject of a witch hunt since we opened. It seems like, every two or three months, someone says that we’re in trouble again."

Kaplan said that the news item in The Villager was "something interesting to wake up to." He said he'd been on the phone about it for hours this morning, though he is quite used to it by now.

Kaplan confirmed that the liquor license had not been renewed by the New York State Liquor Authority, but Death & Co. is allowed and has been purchasing and selling alcohol under a clause in a State Procedure and Administrative Act (SAPA) letter.

Contrary to what The Villager reported, Kaplan said, "It’s my understanding and my lawyers' understanding that we have 60 days to appear for a hearing. If the S.L.A. refuses hearing us, my understanding is you would have to get a stay and go to a court of law. Throughout all of this, legally you’re allowed to stay open and allowed to serve liquor because they haven’t officially revoked our license."

He added, "We think the S.L.A. will be reasonable in this matter."

When asked about the statements attributed to S.L.A. spokesperson Bill Crowley that "the Police Department could rightfully pursue action against the establishment for the 'illegal trafficking of alcohol,'" Kaplan answered it was something that was news to him.

"There's a very good chance he knows something that we don’t...if that is, we’re unsure as to why it hasn’t been handed down to us since we're trying our very best efforts trying to abide to everything."

"We have had a rough go of it with the community board because of a few individuals, because of a long list of bureaucratic intricacies," Kaplan said.

Though the community board is no longer involved in Death & Co.'s dealings with the S.L.A., Kaplan said he can admit that a lot of the difficulties that Death & Co. are going through now are based on mistakes made as eager restaurateurs who were on a tight budget at the beginning of the process.

"The fact is that in the beginning we didn’t hire a lawyer," he explained. "It's a mistake we made that we’re still paying for."

"Though we disclosed all of the information, and didn’t hide anything, we did file everything that we needed to. Just not in the order that it should be done."

Kaplan said that "just a few weeks ago" Death & Co. settled with the S.L.A., which included a 7-day closure and civil penalty. The violations being listed in The Villager are nothing new. In the settlement packet the community board's claims were disproved and Kaplan said, "the sort of ideal way the situation's supposed to go on, the settlement wipes the slate clean."

The list of complaints about Death & Co. have been "totally ridiculous," according to Kaplan said. There were charges of evoking Nazism to noise complaints, that Kaplan said mainly comes from one neighbor.

"There's no new information in what they're saying," Kaplan said. "But if we’re going to be brought in on these claims again for revocation, that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever."

"We’re anticipating being heard before the S.L.A. again. Once again, we think the S.L.A. will be understanding as they were before and see that there’s nothing in the case that’s changed, and there's reason for them to reinstate the license. It's a long, long process going on since we opened, hopefully one day it will be resolved."

An hour or so later Kaplan called back. He said that he received confirmation from the S.L.A.'s licensing director Kerry O'Brien, and from another council member, Tom Donahue, that Death & Co. can continue to operate as is for four months and they are not running illegally without a license.

"We are fine, but we continue to run with a high level of alert," Kaplan said and that at Death & Co. "It’s always been like this for just about 12 months now. It's still up in the air, unfortunately, but we're busy every night. Business has been really good, and reviews have been great. We're putting out a product that people like and want...We operate a very tight ship, a very quiet ship and we operate very lawfully."

Previously: "Death & Co.; dead or alive?"

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