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Burger Joint Owner Calls in the Clergy to Purify 'Jinxed' Restaurant

By DNAinfo Staff on December 6, 2010 1:37pm  | Updated on December 7, 2010 6:59am

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CHELSEA — A priest, a rabbi and a Buddhist walked into a burger joint Monday morning — to offer protective prayers for a piece of real estate some fear is jinxed.

The New York Burger Co. will officially open its new franchise at the corner of West Tenth Avenue and West 23rd Street next week. But owner Madeline Poley said that she felt compelled to enlist the aid of the spiritual leaders after reading an Eater NY article calling the property one of the most cursed restaurant spaces in the city.

"Nobody has ever made it in this space," said Poley, who is of Jewish heritage but says her own beliefs align more closely with Buddhism.

The litany of ill-fated tenants over the past decade includes Il Bordello (which closed after just nine months in business), Le Solex, Jerry's Bar & Grill and the Flamingo Room, according to Eater NY.

Father Ed Sombilon, who leads a Catholic Church in New Jersey, kicked off the rituals by offering a reading from the Psalms. He then doused the windows, franchise managers, countertops and walls with Holy Water.

Bronx-based Rabbi Dennis Tobin read a traditional Jewish morning blessing before promising to hide pennies and salt in the restaurant's rafters. The gesture, he said, would ensure that the space would always offer sustenance and wealth to its inhabitants.

"Since the owners are going to be here 24/7, it's going to be a home to them," Tobin said.

Buddhist Priest Chodo Campbell, of the Village Zendo temple, said he agreed to participate in part because he was assured of the humane treatment of the cattle used for the chain's burgers. Two years ago, Poley traveled to Montana and Oregon ranches she buys from to be sure that the cows were well fed and given room to roam.

"If you're going to eat animal products, it's very important that you know where it came from," Campbell said.

After listening to each of the spiritual leaders, Poley said she felt optimistic about the new restaurant's future. A longtime resident of Chelsea herself, Poley said she had watched the block change and grow, "from nothing up."

But it's still an address fraught with challenges. The restaurant sits two doors down from the shuttered Empire Diner, and across the street from a building that has been the subject of rowdy union protests since mid-summer.

"I kind of believe you need all the help you can get," Poley said.