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Spanky & Darla’s Closed For Operating Without a Permit


A tipster spotted this sign affixed to Spanky & Darla’s. The health department notice, dated Oct. 3, indicates the bar was closed for operating without a permit.

It’s not the first time the dive at 140 First Avenue has been forcibly shut down. In 2010, the bar’s predecessor, Cheap Shots, was closed after underage drinking busts and fighting caused it to be declared a “public nuisance,” a police department attorney told NYC the Blog.

During its time as Cheap Shots, the bar had to pay a total of $11,000 for offenses that included sales to minors, unlicensed security guards, and unlimited drinks specials, according to State Liquor Authority records.

The Liquor Authority’s Website indicates that a liquor license for the establishment was recently renewed, and activated on Oct. 1, 2012. The premises name and trade name are listed as Cheapshots rather than Spanky & Darla’s.

In May, Big Apple Reviews called the bar “a great place to go for a low-key night to just get some drinks, or get plastered before painting the town red.”

He’s Fighting Rats Down There So We Don’t Have to Fight Them in the Park

IMG_0009Stephen Rex Brown A Department of Health worker drops rat poison into the sewer.

The rats might be returning to Tompkins Square Park (depending on who you ask) but don’t think the city is waving the white flag. While walking the beat today we came upon two health department employees dropping poison into a sewer grate at East Seventh Street and Avenue A. One of them confirmed that the bait was meant to thin the hordes of rodents that last year became a media sensation.

Butter Lane Ready to Serve Cupcakes Again

cupcakes, from butter laneAlexis Lamster

After a brief closure by the Department of Health, Butter Lane has once again fired up the ovens and is preparing to serve cupcakes. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health confirmed that the bakery was shut down yesterday for “extensive rodent infestation,” and that it passed a reopening inspection today. The Local just put in a call to Butter Lane, and an employee said that vanilla cupcakes should be ready by 2:30 p.m.

For Locals, Shock at Mars Bar’s Closure

Mars Bar umbrellasJoshua Davis Former patrons of Mars Bar customers gathered outside the now-closed bar Monday night for an impromptu candlelight vigil.

Occasional customers and regulars at Mars Bar were shocked Monday night to learn that the Department of Health ordered the bar to close. City health inspectors found several sanitation violations and slapped a yellow “Closed” sticker on the bar’s front door Monday afternoon. Many East Villagers believe that Monday was the last time they’ll ever see Mars Bar open to the public.

Julie Turley, East Village resident since 1995 and a librarian at Borough of Manhattan Community College, said she loved the art on the walls at Mars Bar.

“I didn’t realize it was closing so soon. I don’t even drink really, but I always said if the Mars Bar closed, I would have to leave New York because it would be sort of the last slice of cake for that area — that represented this city’s grungy past. I never felt like I belonged there, but I’m still sad to see it go.”
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Health Department Shutters Mars Bar

Mars Bar Beer on SidewalkJoshua Davis Owner Hank Penza sat outside Mars Bar as beer was taken away for what could be the last time after the Health Department ordered the bar closed.

Update | 7:34 p.m. Mars Bar, a symbol of a bygone era in the East Village, was widely expected to go out with a bang — a blow-out party before its home on the corner of East First Street and Second Avenue is demolished to make way for a condo tower. Instead, the bar has fallen to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which today ordered the shutters pulled down for what regulars expect to be the last time.

A spokeswoman for the department confirmed that the bar was closed after an inspector found approximately 850 fruit flies in the bar; conditions “conducive to a pest infestation;” cracked and chipped walls and unsecured gas cylinders.

News of the bar’s closure was first posted by EV Grieve, with other outlets quickly following suit. Calls to the bar were met with gruff confirmations that it had been closed but further details did not immediately emerge.

Outside Mars Bar this afternoon, regulars and staff appeared in a foul mood, threatening reporters and photographers and refusing to answer questions. Owner Hank Penza told a Village Voice reporter that he was “tired” and that was why the bar was closing.

Around 4 this afternoon, a yellow Health Department sign had been spotted posted on the bar’s door but within a half hour it was covered by a makeshift sign that simply read “closed.”
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Mars Bar Forced to Close

Mars Bar ClosingJoshua Davis Workers removed beer and other beverage from Mars Bar, which was apparently closed by the authorities earlier today.

Update | 6:14 p.m. Health Department officials have confirmed that they ordered the closure of Mars Bar today because of a litany of health code violations. The department said that inspectors observed about 850 fruit flies in various areas of the restaurant and in a bottle of alcohol; the department also cited “conditions conducive to a pest infestation including standing water on a floor near an ice machine, water logged wooden flooring and bottles in a box with fluid in them.”

Update | 5:26 p.m. With the wrecking ball already hanging over its head, Mars Bar was apparently forced to close by the authorities earlier today. EV Grieve posted rumors that the bar had been closed by the Department of Health, but it was unclear whether the closure was temporary or permanent.

A reporter from The Local saw a yellow sign bearing the words “Closed by Order of the Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene” affixed to the front door of the bar around 4 this afternoon. Within a half hour, the sign had been covered and a worker hurled expletives at reporters as they took photographs of the scene.

Grieve called the bar, as did The Local. A man answered the phone and asked about the closure said: “The Mars Bar just closed down now.” He refused to answer any more questions and hung up. Late this afternoon, a handwritten, cardboard sign attached to the store read simply “closed” and beer was being carted out on to the sidewalk.

Owner Hank Penza was at his usual station outside the bar, but patrons and staff at the bar declined to comment to The Local.

In an interview with the Village Voice’s Runnin’ Scared blog, Mr. Penza denied that the Health Department was involved in the bar’s closure.

The Local is continuing to report this story and we will provide more details as they become available.

Khristopher J. Brooks, Joshua Davis, Ian Duncan and Todd Olmstead contributed reporting to this post.

IMG_0387Khristopher J. Brooks The scene outside Mars Bar earlier today.

Fu Sushi cleans up, re-opens

The workers at Fu Sushi restaurant were given the OK to re-open recently after being forced to close by the Department of Health. On June 23, health officials visited the restaurant for a typical inspection and found 99 health code violations. Inspectors re-visited the restaurant on July 8 and gave Fu Sushi the green light to serve customers again.

Khristopher J. Brooks

The National Underground To Reopen

Music venue The National Underground will reopen tonight for the first time since June 10, said co-owner Joey DeGraw. The bar at 159 East Houston Street has been closed for over a week because of a failed health inspection, which included five critical violations for sanitation and food safety issues. The reopening of the venue, co-owned by Mr. DeGraw’s musician brother, Gavin, comes a few days later than  expected.

Health Code Violations Shutter Barbone

Albert Ibrahimi in the Garden at BarboneIan Duncan Albert Ibrahimi in the garden at Barbone. The restaurant was closed over the weekend for health code violations.

Albert Ibrahimi was hoping to spend Thursday night celebrating the five years in business at Barbone, his first restaurant, an Italian place on Avenue B. Instead, he spent it sitting with a health inspector who was in the process of closing the restaurant down for sanitary code violations.

Mr. Ibrahimi said his restaurant was “spotless” certainly no vermin and not a single fly. His undoing was a refrigerator that failed in the strain of Thursday’s heat shortly before the inspector came knocking at 10 p.m.

“I was in shock that he was closing me down,” Mr. Ibrahimi said. “I actually planned to go out and meet some friends.”

What followed was a scramble to get a new refrigerator online and fill in the health department’s paperwork to get inspected again the next day and have permission to reopen for the weekend.
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At the 10th St. Baths, a Rodent Problem

Outside Russian and Turkish BathsIan Duncan Patrons sit on the steps of the Russian and Turkish Baths. Its kitchen was recently closed after failing a health inspection.

Citing the presence of vermin and flies, the Health Department shut down the kitchen of the Russian and Turkish Baths on East 10th Street during the last week of May. The baths was again permitted to serve food on Friday, but will be subject to monthly inspections until its cleanliness improves.

A health department spokeswoman told The Local that the kitchen was closed for “extensive evidence of vermin conditions and conditions that supported their existence” and the department’s Web site lists other violations, including failure to keep food hot. The kitchen was initially closed on May 25; it was allowed to reopen June 1 after a follow-up inspection.

In the Kitchen at Russian and Turkish BathsIan Duncan

Since July 2010, the city has graded restaurants’ hygiene on an A to C scale, and owners are required to display their most recent grade to the public. Individual violations incur points, and anything above 28 points equals a grade C and means an establishment will be subject to monthly checkups by the health department. During the May 25 inspection, the Russian and Turkish Baths scored 55 points. The health department spokeswoman confirmed another inspection will take place in the next few weeks.

Currently, a “grade pending” poster is on display at the Russian and Turkish Baths, meaning the venue is contesting the results of the inspection. Speaking with The Local today, the manager of the Baths, Dimitri Shapiro, played down the results of the inspection. “We have an exterminator but we never saw any mouse. It was mostly paperwork issues that stopped it getting done,” he said, referring to the kitchen reopening.

Mr. Shapiro added that during the second inspection on June 1 the kitchen got “a clean bill of health.”

The baths serve traditional Russian food, as well as all-day breakfast. The baths have occupied their site on East 10th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A since 1892.

A Grand Re-Opening for Ray’s

DSC00817Stephen Rex Brown Ray Alvarez, the owner of Ray’s Candy Store.

This morning, we told you that Ray’s Candy Store is open for business again after the Avenue A mainstay failed a health inspection last week and was forced to close for five days.

The Local paid a visit to Ray’s this morning and spoke with the owner and namesake, Ray Alvarez, who described how he and some friends worked late into the night to clean the shop so that it could eventually pass muster.

“I only slept three hours a night,” said Mr. Alvarez, who’s 78. “We swept, mopped, and patched over 200 holes. I had two exterminators come last week.”

Health inspectors first visited Mr. Alvarez’s eatery between Seventh Street and St. Marks Place last Monday, and cited the shop for contaminated food, evidence of mice in food preparation areas, and improper storage areas.

The inspector told Mr. Alvarez to close his business, but — concerned about the financial ramifications of closing —he remained open and was slapped with a $2,000 fine on a return visit the same day.

“Too many fines,” Mr. Alvarez said. “The inspectors ran out of paper, and my pen ran out of ink from signing my name so much.”
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Ray’s Candy Cleans Up

Picture 065Kenan ChristiansenA Ray’s customer contemplates the closure notice.

This morning Ray Alvarez could not stop fidgeting. He checked the soda machine for dirt, scrubbed the countertop with bleach, and consolidated the coffee into one pot. As he worked he counted off each potential violation.

“Now I’ve got to wash these, too, or they’ll be on to me,” he said, referring to the empty coffee pitchers.

Two days ago, Ray’s Candy Store, at 113 Avenue A, was ordered to close by the Department of Health. The store had racked up 53 points in health code violations, for issues which included mouse excrement on the floor and dirt on the soda machine.

The 78-year-old owner was told he could not reopen until these issues were addressed and his shop passed a follow-up inspection. At the time, Mr. Alvarez ignored the order, fearing that if he closed, for even a day, the loss in revenue would put him out of business for good.

It ended up being a costly decision. When the health inspector returned yesterday and found him still operating, Mr. Alvarez received a hefty fine and now estimates that he owes a total of $7,000.
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Grading The Cleanliness Of Pizzerias

Pizza at Ray'sRobyn Baitcher Pizzas on display on the counter at Ray’s on St. Marks Place near Third Avenue. In July, city officials released a new cleanliness rating system for restaurants. Some of the revised grades for local pizzerias were released this month.

The East Village is home to myriad iconic late-night eateries, from 5 a.m. nachos on Avenue A to curry-sauced Belgian fries on Second Avenue. But for all our dining options, many of us share a common snacking obsession: The hot, cheesy pizza slice.

In July, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released a new cleanliness rating system for restaurants in New York City. Residents around the East Village have no doubt seen the department’s laminated cards – displaying letter grades of “A,” “B” or “C” – propped up in restaurant windows around the neighborhood.

Pizza shops in the area have had a tough time scoring well under the new system, in part because storing pizza slices on open display before reheating them can be a Department of Health violation.
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