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Back Fence Bar Shut Down by Health Department Days Before Closing for Good

By Andrea Swalec | September 24, 2013 2:54pm | Updated on September 24, 2013 4:15pm
 The Bleecker Street bar's owner called the Sept. 18, 2013 closure just 10 days before the final goodbye "ridiculous."
Health Department Closes The Back Fence Bar
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GREENWICH VILLAGE — After 68 years, the owner of the Bleecker Street bar and music venue The Back Fence was planning to close the business for good on Saturday with a final concert — but the city Health Department beat him to it.

The popular 155 Bleecker St. bar was shut down Sept. 18 after inspectors hit the establishment with 55 violation points for evidence of mice, "filth flies" and improper sanitation practices, city records show.

The Health Department also found workers were using their bare hands on food that would not be heated, and that plumbing was improperly maintained, according to public records.

Owner Ernie Scinto — who told DNAinfo New York in July that the concert spot would close because of a rent increase — called the Health Department shutdown, which came just 10 days before the bar's final closure, "ridiculous."

"We were closing already," he said Tuesday. "We told them that and they closed us anyway."

Health Department inspectors are required to inspect restaurants that are open, a spokesman said, adding the agency had no information about the permanent closure when the inspection was assigned.

Scinto, 83, said workers inside The Back Fence, which has yellow closure notices posted on its doors, are trying to resolve the sanitation issues in time for the scheduled farewell show on Saturday. Singer Greg Aulden and "many past performers" will play, according to the bar's website.

The bar, with a small stage and red-and-white checkered tablecloths, was previously closed by the Health Department in December 2011 after being cited for roaches, evidence of mice and filth flies.

The Health Department immediately shutters restaurants and bars with "conditions that may be hazardous to public health," according to its website.

The Back Fence's four-story building at the northwest corner of Bleecker and Thompson streets was bought for $6.85 million in May 2012 by the Midtown-based property firm Trevi Retail, property records show.

Company executive Johnny McCarthy previously said the space would be available later this year at "market rate," declining to discuss the terms of The Back Fence's proposed lease renewal.