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Bar Owner Renting Out 'Illegal' Rehearsal Studios, Tenants Fear

By Meredith Hoffman | March 26, 2013 8:42am

WILLIAMSBURG — A massive soon-to-open bar near the waterfront has been renting practice space to musicians without a permit since late last year, infuriating neighbors and leaving tenants afraid of sudden eviction, both sides told DNAinfo.com.

Alexander Dimitrov — who owns the Lower East Side's Bulgarian bar Mehanata and whose plans to open his Williamsburg venue have met fierce community resistance — has been renting his North First Street building to "hundreds of musicians" for practice rooms, according to tenants and neighbors.

But according to the city's Department of Buildings, he has no legal right to lease the space because the city hasn't yet given him the required certificate of occupancy.

"He seems to be disregarding the law," said neighbor Molly Magdalain who lives in a condo around the corner. "What he's doing is illegal and annoying... Recently people were playing really loudly at 3 and 4 a.m."

Musicians at the space confirmed they paid Dimitrov to use the building as practice space — and said he never told them about any legal issues.

One musician who started using the 58 N. First St. building in November, said he and his bandmate pay $700 a month for a practice room. He added that Dimitrov promised they might also get discounts at the beer garden when it eventually opened.

"There are about 30 practice spaces with two to four musicians in each one," said the musician, who requested his name not be used for fear of the landlord's repercussions. "It's a great space."

The musician, who responded to a Craigslist post for the studio, said Dmitri made them sign a lease and requested they pay last month's rent. He made no indication that the space was not legal to occupy.

But the musician said neighbors — who have filed complaints with the Department of Buildings — had come to the studios and warned him that his presence wasn't legally allowed.

"We're worried that all of the sudden we might show up and there will be a chain on the door...or that we'll have to leave and lose our last month's rent security deposit," he said. "At the end of the day it's the musicians who are going to be out of luck."

Dimitrov did not respond to multiple calls and in-person requests for comment.

But last year when he presented his plan to Williamsburg's Community Board 1, he included music studios in the proposal.

He said the establishment would include 15 — 20 rehearsal studios, a performance space, and a public rooftop garden with security guards and no alcohol.

"I'm trying to improve the area," Dimitrov said last year. "I'm investing in a commercial warehouse so people can benefit."

A spokesman from the Department of Buildings would not comment on whether action would be taken on the building.