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Legendary Punk Rock Bar May Close Due to Lawsuit Under Disabilities Act

By Ben Fractenberg | January 20, 2015 8:23pm
  East Village punk rock bar Manitoba's started a $25,000 fundraiser after being sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act for not being wheelchair accessible, Jan. 20, 2015. 
Manitoba's Lawsuit
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EAST VILLAGE — Legendary East Village punk rock bar Manitoba’s is in danger of shuttering after reaching a settlement with a man who has sued dozens of businesses under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to court filings.

The Avenue B bar started a $25,000 fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo on Jan. 19, saying it was “recently forced to reluctantly settle a case with a private individual for a cumbersome amount” because of a “small wrinkle in the interplay between State and Federal law.”

Luigi Girotto, 50, who uses a wheelchair after suffering a spinal cord injury during a skiing trip, filed suit against Manitoba’s in July after he visited the bar with his son and was unable to enter the establishment, the father told DNAinfo New York. Girotto has sued at least 27 other businesses for failing to provide accessibility, according to court papers.

Girotto, who used to live in the East Village, said he took his oldest son, who just started college at NYU, to the bar to show him his favorite neighborhood hangouts.

“I am sorry, but that particular day I was outside [while my son went in]. It was raining a little bit,” Girotto said. “I ended up waiting in the car and then we went to a different place.”

The father of three then tried to go to a restaurant next door, Casimir, but was unable to enter.

He filed suit against the restaurant as well.

“I think it’s a racket,” said Casimir owner Anton Brune, 25, who took over the business about seven months ago. “It’s too easy to sue in New York City. We are a small business just trying to survive.”

Brune added that he was already planning renovations for the restaurant, so adding a ramp would not be as costly as it might be for other businesses.

Girotto has also sued at least 16 businesses in his hometown of Rye, N.Y. since 2011, court papers show.

He said he has not profited from any of the lawsuits and all the money won goes to the attorneys who represent him at The Weitz Law Firm in Florida and the spinal cord injury foundation JustADollarPlease

“I don’t require small businesses to do major renovation work, but they need to make it accessible,” Girotto said, adding that he would be satisfied if businesses had a portable ramp they could bring outside when someone in a wheelchair needed to enter.

He said that he first tried to ask businesses to install ramps or make their bathrooms accessible, but that he was ignored.

“Even if I tell them they don’t do it. The only time it works is when they have to comply,” Girotto said. “I do this because I want the next person to be happier, to get inside. Or the next time I go I can get in with my friends.”

Girotto has also taken on larger businesses. 

He sued Starbucks in 2010 after a Greenwich, Conn., location he used to frequent failed to install a ramp after making renovations, GreenwichTime reported. 

The original lawsuit against Manitoba's asked for only $500 in damages in addition to attorneys' fees. A settlement agreement dated Dec. 10 did not specify what amount the parties finally agreed upon. Girotto said he was also unsure what the dollar amount was.  

The owners of Manitoba’s did not return a request for comment. 

The bar had raised nearly $8,000 by Jan. 20 through the fundraising campaign, which was slated to end on Feb. 18.