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Hot Dog Cart Blamed for Causing Stink at New Hell's Kitchen Bar

By Mathew Katz | May 8, 2012 6:57am
Owners Joe Donagher and Liam Whyte said that smoke from the food cart outside is driving away their business.
Owners Joe Donagher and Liam Whyte said that smoke from the food cart outside is driving away their business.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

HELL'S KITCHEN — The Beer Authority, a two-story shrine to ales that opened up across from the Port Authority in April, has seen its business go up in smoke because of a street food vendor owners say is stinking up their joint.

The Beer Authority opened to huge fanfare with a $1.6 million bar and more than 62 beers on tap, but its owners say a frequent lunch and happy-hour crowd quickly dropped off because of a charcoal musk that permeates the entire building — generated by a food cart vendor parked directly in front of their entrance.

"Nobody wants to come in here because of the stink," said co-owner Joe Donagher, who opened the bar on the corner of West 40th Street and Eighth Avenue with his business partner Liam White.

"Customers walk in and leave before they can even order a beer."

Aimed at craft beer lovers and traditional pub folks, the Beer Authority is the second joint White and Donagher owned. They own Rattle N Hum, on East 33rd Street, which was chosen by Zagat as one of the top craft beer bars in the city.

But with smoke seeping into their new bar and leaving the place with a smell of burnt tar — even when the windows are closed — it could soon be forced to close, Donagher said.

"I'll tell you why — it stinks in here," Donagher said. "He's smoking me out."

"Nobody wants to eat a big, juicy steak when they smell burning pretzels," he added.

Donagher and Whyte said they are now struggling to pay their bills and rent, a problem that's compounded by the huge cost of setting up the $1.6 million bar including, ironically, an $18,000 ventilation system for their kitchen.

The pair said they've tried to confront the street-food vendor who sends off giant clouds of smoke while hawking knishes, hot dogs, and pretzels on 40th Street, but no one involved in the operation has been willing to work with them.

They have also reached out to the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health, the NYPD, 311, the Fashion Business Improvement District, and even City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in hopes of getting help.

"They can take their cart and go anywhere in the city," Donagher said of the street vendor. "My license is here, I can't take it anywhere else."

A man working at the cart outside the Beer Authority would not comment on the conflict, and pointed a reporter to several other carts across the street, which he said were owned by the same company.

None of the staff at those carts would speak on the record or give any information as to who owns the cart.

"The Health Department will be following up on this mobile food vendor," said Alexandra Waldhorn, a spokeswoman. She did not elaborate on what following up would entail.

The Fashion Center Business Improvement District placed several planters in front of the bar — temporarily getting the vendor to relocate for a few days. But the vendor returned once the planters were moved because the BID didn't have a permit to place them there, officials said.

Attorney Matthew Shapiro, who represents food vendors for the Street Vendor Project, said that food carts are required to have ventilation equipment, and added that the bar's owners might just need to develop less sensitive noses.

"This is New York City — there are lots of smells that happen around the streets," he said. "Maybe they need to get air fresheners or work on their ducts."