A Sheepshead Bay community panel and two neighborhood politicians led a biased smear campaign against an Avenue U restaurant that prevented the eatery from getting its liquor license, the disgruntled restaurateurs said this week as they sued civic leaders for all the revenue they’ve lost.
Galaxy Restaurant owners Marat Zagorin and Mark Shteynshlyuger, who owned the failed Pleasure restaurant at the same address near Coney Island Avenue five years ago, claim that community leaders like Community Board 15 chairwoman Teresa Scavo turned down their request for a liquor license because they weren’t Jewish enough and are seeking a whopping $180 million in damages.
“Scavo is discriminating against [Zagorin and Shteynshlyuger] based on their national origin and religion,” court records claim, indicating that Scavo and CB15 members said they would only approve a Kosher restaurant that caters to observant Jews because they are quiet.
“Scavo is emphatic in her position that she does not want a Russian non-Kosher restaurant opening in that community,” the lawsuit claims.
Attorney Linda Cronin said Zagorin and Shteynshlyuger, who put more than $400,000 into a restaurant they were never allowed to open, were flabbergasted by the resistance they received on something as routine as a liquor license petition.
“The community board must represent all of the community and right now they’re not representing these two Russian Jewish men,” Cronin told the Daily News. “They’re coming up with all kinds of discriminatory prejudices as to what they believe the restaurant will be.”
Defendants in the suit include Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz (DSheepshead Bay), who the complainants say called the restaurant “a plague on the community.”
State Sen. Marty Golden (RBay Ridge) is also a defendant in the lawsuit for allegedly spreading rumors that the two restaurateurs were opening a strip club.
“This institution decreases the quality of life... locations like these need to be strongly monitored and made to cooperate with the community if they cannot be shut down,” Golden said, according to court documents.
Cymbrowitz declined to comment on the lawsuit, which he’s already forward to New York State’s Attorney General’s Office for review. Calls to Golden for comment were not returned by our midnight deadline.
Scavo admits that she had complained publicly about the Galaxy Restaurant’s non-Kosher offerings, but said her comments were shamelessly taken out of context.
“What was said was, ‘that area caters to Kosher establishments, because of the demographics,’” said Scavo. “That’s the statement that was made.”
Scavo says that the community board was well within its rights when it advised the state to deny the restaurant’s liquor license application. CB15, the State Liquor Authority, and the 61st Precinct received numerous complaints regarding Zagorin’s restaurant Pleasure.
“The liquor authority had to shut their fax machine off, because they couldn’t handle all the complaints,” said Scavo, who doesn’t know why she was personally singled out in the lawsuit. “Everybody votes how they feel. What did I do, pass my bias off on everyone on the board?”
Zagorin opened Pleasure in 2006, and closed it two years later after neighbors complained of underage drinking, noise, and bar brawls that spilled out onto the street.
He tried to reopen his embattled establishment under the name Pleasure Island in December, 2010, then as Galaxy, but his plans fell apart when CB15 petitioned the State Liquor Authority to deny his applications for a new liquor license.Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cn