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Neighbors Say Kosher Steakhouse is Too Rowdy for Upper West Side

By Leslie Albrecht | April 7, 2011 8:06pm | Updated on April 8, 2011 6:29am

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — A hip kosher steakhouse whose customers include Lindsay Lohan, New York Knicks players and Israel's chief rabbi is too rowdy for the Upper West Side, say neighbors.

Shabbat-celebrating hot spot Prime KO is drawing complaints from residents of West 85th Street and Broadway.

They say the restaurant, which opened in May 2010, is quiet during the week but attracts partying crowds on the weekend who linger on the street talking loudly after the rabbi-approved eatery closes.

The angry neighbors showed up to complain about the restaurant at a Community Board 7 meeting this week where Prime KO's application for a sidewalk cafe permit was reviewed.

While the restaurant's all-kosher menu and special events like Passover Seders have won fans among observant Jews, Prime KO's stylish vibe has attracted celebrities since opening night. "The Sopranos" actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, along with Oklahoma City Thunder center Serge Ibaka, were in attendance that night, according to the New York Times.

Prime KO's Facebook page and Twitter posts beckon customers to events like Shabbat Across America, while also showing off snapshots of celebs like Lohan, whose recent dinner at Prime KO made Page Six.

The restaurant has also served Snooki, the Knicks' Chauncey Billups and Jared Jeffries, and Israel's chief rabbi Yona Metzger.

Residents in the co-op buildings directly across the street say sometimes limousines and chauffeur-driven cars idle on the block, causing congestion, and customers are boisterous when they leave late at night.

"It's a place to party, and it's very difficult to contain the noise," said resident Charles Abbott at this week's Community Board 7 meeting.

Abbott, who said his co-op board asked him to speak on its behalf, said a sidewalk cafe doesn't belong on a side street, and expanding Prime KO's operations outside would worsen the noise problem.

Abbott said that Prime KO is a "beautiful" restaurant, but he's had to buy a white noise machine to drown out the racket that patrons make when they leave.

Abbott's neighbor, Kristin Summers, who can see Prime KO from her living room window, said the restaurant seems to cater to families and business people during the week, but a younger crowd on the weekend.

"On the weekends, it's noisy and it's a different crowd," Summers said.

Abbott pointed to the restaurant's recent Purim party, which he said attracted noisy costumed revelers, as an example of the problem.

But Prime KO's Director of Operations Steven Traube said Purim is a once yearly event that brought only one limousine to the restaurant and didn't generate any noise complaints from neighbors.

Traube and restaurant owner Joey Allaham defended Prime KO against neighbors' complaints at the Community Board 7 meeting, insisting that they run a "neighborhood restaurant," not a night club in disguise.

"There's no dancing in the restaurant, we don't have a cabaret license, they're coming to eat," Traube told DNAinfo after the meeting. "Just like Snooki goes to clubs, she also goes to McDonald's. She does eat. She doesn't live on vodka and ice."

While Prime KO's Facebook page promised an "epic Purim party" with no cover charge and "celebrity DJs," Traube pointed out that those DJs plugged into the restaurant's internal sound system, not club-style speakers that blast music.

Allaham and Traube said they poured money into renovating Prime KO's West 85th Street space, previously home to the casual Mexican restaurant La Cocina. Allaham told Community Board 7 he wanted to convert a "noisy Mexican bar" into "something that fits better with the neighborhood."

Prime KO is operated by the Prime Hospitality Group, which also owns Prime Grill and Solo. The Japanese-inspired menu includes a $49 dry aged L bone steak, as well as sushi rolls, shabu shabu and tempura.

In addition to young celebrities, Prime KO can claim support from the Jewish establishment. Restaurant representatives presented Community Board 7 with a letter from Michael Landau, chairman of the Council of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of the West Side.

Landau, who said in the letter that he's hosting a party soon at Prime KO, lauded Prime KO for hosting several charity events.

"The restaurant and its owners are extremely sensitive, committed and charitable toward the needs of the Orthodox Jewish Community of the Upper West Side," Landau wrote.

Community Board 7 member Sheldon Fine called Prime KO a neighborhood asset, because it serves the growing number of observant Jews on the Upper West Side.

Fine, an Orthodox Jew, said he's never eaten at Prime KO, but he visited the restaurant twice to investigate neighbors' complaints. Fine said he saw families and young couples dining in a "conspicuously quiet" setting.

"Since when have observant Jews been known to be rowdy, drunk or loud?" Fine said. "There are ways Jews are generally characterized, but I've never heard that."

In response to residents' complaints, Prime KO says it will scale back its operations, and close by midnight instead of 1 a.m. on Saturday nights.

The restaurant also promised to post a sign reminding patrons to keep quiet as they leave, and make sure staff watch the street for double-parked cars.

Community Board 7 approved Prime KO's request for a sidewalk cafe permit, but the final decision will be made by the city's Department of Consumer Affairs.