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Bareburger Forced to Close Patio After Mice Overrun Neighboring Park

By Andrea Swalec | August 26, 2013 6:50am
 The restaurant owners said in August 2013 that neglect of nearby green space was causing a mouse problem.
Bareburger and Favela Cubana Plagued by Outdoor Mouse Infestation
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GREENWICH VILLAGE — Mice have two Village restaurants begging for relief from a problem they say they didn't cause.

The restaurants Bareburger and Favela Cubana are battling an outdoor mouse infestation that has cost the eateries thousands of dollars and pushed Bareburger to cut the hours of its popular patio.

The 535 LaGuardia Place outpost of the local burger chain was forced to close its deck at 6 p.m. every night starting last month — despite the restaurant's 11 p.m. closing time — because mice kept scurrying around diners' feet after dark, company CEO Euripides Pelekanos said Friday.

"They were like vampires. It was crazy," he said, noting his staff has tried everything from pricey exterminator visits to putting out catnip to attract cats to fight the vermin that appeared this spring.

The owner of Bareburger — which has 14 restaurants citywide — blamed the infestation on the neglect of the ivy-covered plot of land in front of his establishment, from where his staff sees mice run every day.

"The ivy is beautiful but it needs to be maintained," said Pelekanos, reporting that regular clipping of the greenery stopped in the last six months.

The Department of Transportation-owned plot often called a "park strip" is maintained by the nonprofit neighborhood improvement association Friends of LaGuardia Place, according to the city Parks Department.

The group's president, Lawrence Goldberg, did not respond to multiple inquiries about maintenance of the park space.

On the same commercial strip owned by NYU, located on LaGuardia Place near West Third Street, the Brazilian-Cuban fusion spot Favela Cubana has spent more than $1,800 on mouse-control measures in the past six months, owner Marco Britti said.

"It's all grown out of control," he said, pointing to mouse traps laid out near the 543 LaGuardia Place restaurant's front and back doors that catch as many as seven rodents per day.

Neither Bareburger nor Favela Cubana have mouse problem inside, their owners and public records said. Both restaurants received A ratings in their latest inspections by the city Health Department.

The frustrated restaurateurs said their landlord, NYU, should have helped them address the mouse infestation.

"They have a ton of pull and they could have remedied this," Pelekanos said. "We call NYU and they say it's not their responsibility."

An NYU spokesman deferred to Friends of LaGuardia Place.

The LaGuardia Place park strip is the subject of a furious court battle between neighborhood groups and NYU, whose 20-year plan to create four new buildings includes construction on the green space and three similar strips on the two blocks bound by West Third Street, Mercer Street, West Houston Street and LaGuardia Place.

The plaintiffs say the university illegally seized land that's been used for decades as parkland, but NYU lawyers say the university has followed the law.

Pelekanos and Britti, who said they're vigilant about containing all garbage, want to see Friends of LaGuardia Place and NYU tend to the greenery immediately to prevent their bottom lines from suffering.

The sight of any mouse turns off restaurant-goers, whether the vermin come from a dirty kitchen or from an overgrown garden, Pelekanos said.

"All they know is they see rodents."