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Borough President Vows to Fight Controversial Papasito Restaurant

By Emily Frost | July 23, 2012 8:23am

UPPER WEST SIDE — Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has pledged to shut down the controversial Upper West Side outpost of an uptown restaurant after learning of its numerous run ins with police since opening last year.

Neighbors say Papasito Mexican Grill and Agave Bar, at 2728 Broadway, between West 104th and 105th Street, has been a raucous and trouble-ridden nuisance since it opened in mid-September 2011.

The establishment has been temporarily closed down four times since then for selling alcohol to minors. 

Stringer resolved to get involved in shutting down the Upper West Side location after hearing complaints at a town hall meeting last week. 

"I will intervene personally with the [State Liquor Authority] and make sure they know that [the UWS] Papasito is a dangerous nuisance," Stringer promised.

"This is not an isolated noise complaint."

Papasito's original location at 223 Dyckman St., in Inwood, has also been plagued by quality of life complaints since opening in July 2010 and was recently fined $5,000 by the SLA in May for selling alcohol to a minor, extending past its property bounds, failing to post health warnings and operating as an unlicensed "cabaret." 

His office did not respond to requests for comment on action towards Papasito's Inwood location.

Papasito's owners did not return requests for comment. 

At its full board meeting in April, Community Board 7 resolved to recommend against Papasito's application for a two-year liquor license. It was a move Upper West Side residents say the small business-friendly board rarely makes. 

Despite the community board's recommendation, in June the State Liquor Authority allowed Papasito to continue operating under its original license, which was issued to former owners of the restaurant Tokyo Pop, under the State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA).

The temporary license under SAPA lasts through February 28, 2014.  

According to community members present at the June hearing, Papasito requested more time to go before Community Board 7 this fall and show it has changed its ways before it requests a new license from the SLA. 

Papasito was closed for several days in early March for serving alcohol to minors, but reopened shortly after.

It's also been served with violations from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Buildings and has been investigated by the Department of Labor. Papasito has received a 'B' grade from the Department of Health. 

"I'm a little mystified why intervention hasn't happened," said Stringer. 

Deputy Inspector Nancy Barry of the 24th Precinct said she has a night patrol that monitors conditions at the restaurant. 

Although Papasito reduced its operating hours from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. after receiving a litany of noise complaints, residents like Paul Shapiro, who lives across the street, say they are still awoken by loud groups leaving the bar.

"It’s a rowdy crowd, so they come out screaming," he said. "They have a mariachi band that plays outside until 11 p.m. or 12 a.m."

Shapiro and others living nearby have sat through long community board meetings and SLA meetings hoping for a change in Papasito's behavior. He was angry that the SLA continued to let Papasito operate and only issued fines that amount to a slap on the wrist.  

“It just seems like a dead end, it doesn’t matter what the community says," he said.  

But not all neighbors agree the restaurant should be closed.

Andy McCord lives adjacent to Papasito and said he thought the owners were making an effort to keep the noise levels down. 

"I'm not aware of problems like fights, disorderly conduct, sidewalk encroachment recently," he wrote in an email.

"I think they are on good behavior while the license situation is still in process."