A Third Avenue restaurateur whose business is underwater is clinging to the hope that he can revive his failing storefront — even after his partners sneaked in, ransacked the place, and took everything that wasn’t bolted down in the dead of night.
Andrew Chamberas stands guard at Huckleberry’s, the gutted, closed restaurant between 88th and 89th streets day and night to ward off another raid, claiming he’d rather go down with the ship than hand over the keys.
“This place has the potential to be a gold mine,” said Chamberas, who opened the New Orleans-style restaurant with two partners who he claims wanted their investment to pay off too quickly. “They expected the dough to just come in after four months of being open.”
Chamberas and his partners, Michael Stoupalas and Nick Vrakis, have faced eviction since September because they failed to pay their landlord rent for six months, but a legal agreement between the parties would have absolved them of their debt — as long as they walked away from the business.
But Chamberas refused to sign, and sued his co-owners for $500,000 over the disagreement.
That’s when his partners took things to the next level by cleaning the place out in hopes of salvaging their investment. The midnight marauders struck Huckleberry’s late last month, loading a moving van with the restaurant’s stove, broiler, fryers, espresso machine, coffee maker, computers, cash register, phones, silverware, condiments, decorative jars filled with pasta, and a framed drawing of the Virgin Mary — among other items.
“We went and emptied the place,” said Stoupalas, who claims he’s sank nearly $160,000 into the restaurant and intends to sell off the equipment to pay down the debts.
Stoupalas added that Chamberas, who was in charge of day-to-day operations of the restaurant, was to blame for its failure.
“Pretty much it’s bad management,” said Stoupalas. “Business was good at first, but then it died down. Now I have vendors and people that owe us money coming after me.”
But Chamberas said that his partners need to be more patient.
“They thought that when they opened up the business, the dollars would just come in, but they haven’t,” he said.
Now, Chamberas said that he is trying to get another investor to get the place back online, and claims he still has vendors that will extend him credit.
“It needs reinvestment and patience,” he said. “I’m hanging on. You fight to the end.”