HELL'S KITCHEN — After nearly a decade of serving up wine, cheese and tapas, one of Hell's Kitchen's original wine bars has to leave its longtime space on Ninth Avenue.
The owners of Kashkaval, the restaurant and food market at 856 Ninth Ave., have been given notice by their landlord, the nonprofit Clinton Housing Development Company, that they must be out of the space by the end of the month.
But Daniel Assaf and Corey Samuels, the two locals who own the joint, desperately want to renew their lease — or at the very least, know why their landlord won't renew it.
"We constantly ask them why they want us out — what's the reason they want the 30 people who work here to be out of a job — but they won't respond, they're mum," Assaf told DNAinfo New York, as his staffed prepared the restaurant to open on Tuesday morning.
The pair first heard in a curt letter from CHDC that their lease would not be renewed — and that they had until Dec. 31 to leave the space, the owners said. That turned out to be an error on CHDC's part, and now they must be out by the end of September.
Joe Restuccia, CHDC's executive director, cited "problems" with Kashkaval as a reason for ending the lease but did not elaborate.
"They've had ongoing problems with their tenancy, and that's why we decided not to renew," Restuccia said.
Assaf and Samuels said they've received complaints from their landlord about improperly storing garbage in their basement, as well as accusations that they constantly keep their cellar doors open, but they never thought they were major issues.
The popular spot has been a fixture on the ever-changing block since it opened in 2004, a place where customers can eat an affordable lunch, grab a glass of wine or pick up some cheese on the way home from work. Its success led the pair to open up a sister restaurant of the same name next door with more of a sit-down feel in 2012.
An online petition to keep Kashkaval in its current space gathered nearly 1,000 signatures in less than a week.
The owners said they called and emailed CHDC to try to arrange a meeting with Restuccia for months, and even visited the landord's offices in person several times. Both parties will meet next week to discuss the issue.
Samuels said that he respects CHDC for its work in maintaining affordable housing in the neighborhood, but complained that the nonprofit is kicking out a longtime local favorite.
"I greatly appreciate what Clinton Housing has done for the neighborhood, but there's an irony here," he said.
The owners said they currently pay $14,000 a month in rent, and pay less per square foot for their new location, which has a private landlord.
"We're willing to pay market rate," Samuels said. "It's not about the money — it's that we haven't had a chance to negotiate."