PARK SLOPE — One of the backers of the controversial Kemistry bar and lounge was arrested in March on charges of selling marijuana, but didn't divulge the arrest to his partner and the New York State Liquor Authority, according to documents obtained by DNAinfo.
Court records show Leonard Bartletto, a 50 percent partner in the bar, was arrested March 19 on the Lower East Side after cops busted him trading "large plastic bags" full of pot for money, according to a criminal complaint from the Manhattan District Attorney's office. Bartletto was charged with misdemeanor criminal sale of marijuana and is due in court on September 17.
Bartletto and his partner, James Brown, are in the process of applying for a liquor license for Kemistry, which is slated to open at 260 Flatbush Ave. The SLA's board is scheduled to review Kemistry's application at its July 17 meeting.
Neighbors and elected officials have opposed the bar, which will have a back entrance on a residential block of Prospect Place. Locals said the nightclub, which would have bottle service and live music, isn't appropriate for their quiet block.
As part of their application to the SLA, Bartletto and Brown were required to submit sworn statements about their personal histories, including information on previous addresses, jobs, and criminal convictions or pending arrests.
Bartletto didn't divulge the March 2013 arrest to his partner, their attorney or the SLA, according to a letter that Kemistry's attorney, Jerome Sussman, wrote to the SLA in June. Sussman told the SLA that he and Brown only found out about the arrest after a lawyer for neighbors opposed to the bar uncovered it, according to the letter.
In the letter, Sussman called Bartletto's arrest "the straw that broke camel's back" and said Brown was cutting Bartletto out of the business by buying Bartletto's share of the bar.
The SLA did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and neither did Bartletto nor Sussman.
Attorney Peter Adelman, who represents Prospect Place Neighbors, said Bartletto's drug arrest was yet another reason to oppose Kemistry.
"I think the issue is the fitness and character of the applicant [James Brown]," Adelman said. "I honestly don't know which is worse, that he didn’t know about his partner's criminal history, or that he knew about it and went forward with this application anyhow."
Adelman added, "To put a club of this size and nature in the hands of someone like this — I don't think this is the kind of person who can be entrusted with this responsibility."