80-Square-Foot Crepe Shop Shut Down for Not Having Bathroom

By Serena Solomon on September 18, 2013 6:48am 

 The Health Department shut down LES Crepes at 25 Essex St.
The Health Department shut down LES Crepes at 25 Essex St.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

LOWER EAST SIDE — No bathroom, no service.

A tiny crepe shop on the Lower East Side has been shut down by the city for not having a bathroom for its employees, officials said.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene closed LES Crepes at 25 Essex St., near Hester Street, on Sept. 6 and will require the 80-square-foot restaurant to install a toilet before reopening, health officials said.

The owners of the 6-week-old eatery said the Health Department had previously told them that workers could use the bathroom in a neighboring business and it wasn't necessary for LES Crepes to build a separate one.

"They [the Health Department] gave me the green light verbally and I put money into it [the business]," said Oli Balasa, 32, the co-owner of LES Crepes.

"And now not only are they not helping me — they are stabbing me in the back."

Balasa said a Health Department official told him in a May phone conversation that all he needed was a written agreement with neighboring gaming and computer store xCubicle, saying that LES Crepes workers could use its bathroom.

The two stores are separated by a wall but share the same address.

"In my ignorance, I did not record that phone conversation [with the Health Department]," Balasa said.

The Health Department issued a statement denying that officials had ever discussed the idea of a shared bathroom with Balasa and adding that the agency would not have given him permission to open without a bathroom.

"The health codes of both the city and the state require food service establishments to have toilet facilities for employees, and they must be under the control of the establishment that we have permitted," the Health Department's statement said.

The dispute is set to cost LES Crepes between $5,000 to $8,000 in lost income and costs to install a tiny "airplane-like" bathroom in the already-cramped space, Balasa said.

Balasa said he hopes to reopen next week.

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