Rowdy Hookah Bar Hires Civil-Rights Lawyer to Defend Liquor License
HELL'S KITCHEN — A hookah bar that residents say has plagued Hell's Kitchen with wild parties and drunken crowds has hired a civil-rights lawyer specializing in anti-Muslim discrimination cases in a fight to keep its liquor license.
The attorney has warned a leading opponent of the West 46th Street bar that she'll take legal action if complaints about Horus Too keep coming.
Community Board 4 members said the bar, between Ninth and 10th avenues, initially agreed to open in 2009 as a restaurant, with no smoking and a midnight closing time.
Instead, it hosts loud, smoky parties until 4 a.m., leading to complaints from tired residents and neighboring businesses, opponents said.
Years of problems led CB4's Business Licenses and Permits Committee to unanimously vote to ask the State Liquor Authority not to renew the bar's license, which expires at the end of August.
In response, the bar hired civil-rights lawyer Lamis Deek to fight against the opposition.
Deek sent a letter to Scott Moy, a father of two who's led the charge against the bar, threatening potential legal action against him because of his "repeated filing of false complaints."
"She's a civil-rights attorney who specializes in anti-Muslim bigotry, to show you what direction they're going in," said Bob Benfatto, CB4's district manager.
According to Deek's website, her firm "represents the victims of police brutality, discrimination and racism" and has "deep roots in the Arab and Muslim communities in New York."
Deek is well-known for defending Ahmed Ferhani, one of two men who prosecutors say planned a bomb plot to attack New York synagogues.
"We will no longer allow our clients to be attacked, to have their business adversely affected or to be forced to endure any further undue stress as a result of your actions," the June 20 letter to Moy stated.
"You should be aware that your behavior gives us grounds to pursue several causes of actions against you."
Moy, who claimed that his children developed coughs because of smoke from the bar, put up posters in the neighborhood urging residents to complain to 311 and the SLA, as well as photographing and recording the bar's late-night parties.
He also helped gather dozens of neighbors, along with local businesses, to speak out against the bar at a May community board meeting.
Moy and others also complained that the bar — which is only allowed to serve beer and wine — sells Soju, a Korean beverage that's 25 percent alcohol, helping customers get drunker, faster.
"I'm not a business hater," Moy said. "I just want them to agree to what they agreed to in the beginning."
Moy's posters point to the stipulations — such as no smoking or sidewalk use — that the bar allegedly agreed to before the board. Deek's letter called them "false allegations," but the board itself claims otherwise.
The experience with Horus Too caused CB4 to completely overhaul how it enforces stipulations — switching over to a standardized form signed by both the board and bar owners, then sent to the SLA.
"We've had a not-so-distinguished history of concerns with them from the day they filed their application," said Business Licenses and Permits committee co-chair Lisa Daglian at Tuesday's meeting.
Horus Too and Deek did not show up to the meeting, nor did they respond to requests for comment from DNAinfo.com New York.
Moy said that he has not personally been accused of anti-Muslim bigotry and was not aware that Deek specializes in such cases, though he did add that the bar previously defended its actions by saying that it serves the Muslim community.
"It hadn't really crossed my mind," he said. "All the videos and pictures I've taken are of white 20-year-olds partying. That's who parties there."