A trendy Lower East Side restaurant has been forced to shut down altogether after the city tore down its outdoor dining structure and garden — and its owner is planning to sue for property damage and loss of business, Side Dish has learned.
Pinky’s Space, a self-described “food art-space” at 70 E. First St., had spent $50,000 on its eye-popping, 30-foot-long structure that was decorated with neon lights and even a disco ball during the pandemic. The city’s Department of Transportation leveled it on Oct. 27.
“We are still devastated — we haven’t been able to fully reopen and we have to restructure our business model because 90% of our business was from roadway dining,” said Mimi Blitz, who opened the hot spot with Wesley Wobles in 2018.
“We had a living, breathing business here,” Blitz added. “We made sure it looked good and was up to code.”
Outdoor sheds that sprung up during the pandemic have become a topic of debate as some abandoned outdoor structures have attracted vagrants and rodents.
DOT spokesman Vincent Barone told Side Dish Pinky’s Space is one of about 100 outdoor dining sheds removed by DOT. He previously told The Post that Pinky’s Space had received three non-compliance warnings since August.
Hamutal Lieberman of law firm Helbraun & Levey said there was no justification for the city to destroy Pinky’s private property. The lawyer has been in talks with Pinky’s about taking the case.
“Pinky’s was served one or two cease-and-desist notices to correct and become compliant with the Open Restaurants program, but the city doesn’t have the authority to cause property damage and Pinky’s outdoor structure wasn’t an imminent threat or danger,” Lieberman said. “DOT’s arbitrary enforcement of cease-and-desist notifications is inappropriate.”
Lieberman added that she has repped two other restaurants, who decline to be named, whose structures have been destroyed and others who have been targeted for potential destruction by the city.
Blitz was shocked when city workers came to dismantle the shed.
“We had no indication they were taking the structure down, taking my whole livelihood down,” Blitz said. “Some of the DOT workers were laughing at us. They took the lights, every piece of wood, and the astroturf.”
Adding salt to the wound, Blitz said, was that DOT was helping neighboring restaurants who had been hit with similar violations to keep their sheds.
“The day they took our structure down, they were helping the building next door comply to code. It’s frustrating. I don’t understand,” she said.
For working restaurants like Pinky’s Space, the sheds provided a lifeline during and after the pandemic.
“We had spent so much time and effort to create a beautiful garden for our customers and our community, and it was our advertising as well,” Blitz said. “We are still confused as to what happened. We see abandoned shacks and structures that are dangerous safety hazards. Why are they still up and why did DOT take ours away?
A rep for Pinky’s Space had initially told The Post the shed cost $25,000. But Blitz said that figure was incorrect because “everything had happened so fast she didn’t have time to calculate properly.”
More than 12,600 self-certified dining structures are registered in the DOT’s outdoor dining program. There is no word from the city on when restaurateurs can expect guidance on new, permanent outdoor dining structure rules.
“What the city decides to do with its Open Restaurants Program is a different issue. Destroying private property is too much and well beyond the city’s purview and scope of authority,” Lieberman said.
Lexington Avenue opening
We hear…that Parisian favorite Angelina is opening at 1115 Lexington Avenue, which is also part of 150 East 78th Street, a new 15-story Robert A.M. Stern-designed condo building, developed by Midwood Investment & Development. The 700 square-foot spot is “a luxury boutique with all of Angelina’s signature pastries and desserts,” according to Douglas Elliman’s Hillel Horovitz and Pierre Cadourcy, who repped Angelina Paris.
The landlord was repped by Ripco Real Estate’s Beth Rosen and Emily Simmonds. The ten year lease was last asking $350 in rent per square foot. And for an even bigger taste of France, Angelina also launched a hot chocolate pop up inside L’Avenue, the famed fashionista hotspot on Avenue Montaigne in Paris that also boasts a flagship outpost inside Saks Fifth Avenue.
The popular French patisserie, famed for its hot chocolate and eclairs, opened its first US spot at 1050 Sixth Avenue in November 2020.