EAST VILLAGE — Longtime neighborhood diner The Stage Restaurant is being evicted by its landlord for illegally siphoning gas — across the street from the site of the gas explosion that killed two people, according to court documents.
The eatery, which opened in 1980, must leave by the end of the month, according to the notice, which was issued on April 13.
The restaurant “illegally and dangerously altered the piping and gas lines in the building,” according to the eviction notice, which was first published by WNYC.
No applications or permits were secured beforehand and the city turned off the gas for the entire building, located at 128 Second Ave., near St. Mark's Place, according to the notice.
Con Ed will not turn the gas back on until the owner provides an authorization from the Department of Buildings that it authorized to do so, utility spokesman Bob McGee said.
The city also issued a violation against the landlord for installing the gas piping without a permit. A full stop work order was also issued, according to Department of Buildings records.
Records show city inspectors discovered the unauthorized gas line after a tenant who lives above the diner smelled gas inside, three days after a March 26 explosion across the street leveled several buildings and killed Moises Ismael Locón Yac, 27, and Nicholas Figueroa, 23.
The restaurant is famous in the neighborhood for its borscht and pierogies and is a favorite of actress Helen Mirren, who visited it in the days following the explosion.
Stage restaurant owner Roman Diakun told DNAinfo he did not do anything wrong.
“They don’t want me,” he said, referring to his landlord, 128 Second Realty LLC. “I didn’t do any crime.”
Diakun declined to comment further, but previously said at a small business meeting that he was making an emergency repair on the line and did not realize he needed a permit to do the work. He also denied that he was siphoning gas. The landlord, he added, refused to fix the line so he could reopen his business.
Joseph Goldsmith, the landlord’s attorney, disputed Diakun’s claims. He said he asked the restaurant’s owner for copies of its Con Edison statements to show its past gas usage, but had not yet obtained them.
“I believe when we see [the statements] it will support and establish the fact that they were paying far less than any commercial restaurant would be paying for gas,” he said.
The building currently has two stop-work orders but only one is related to gas lines, according to online records. The Department of Buildings issued a full stop-work order on March 30 after inspectors “observed [a] worker in [the] cellar installing new gas pipe and fittings.”
The second stop-work order, issued on April 7, concerned framing, electrical and plumbing work done in three apartments without permits, records show. The building’s tenants are suing the management in housing court for building violations and have a hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning, records show.
The Stage Restaurant was one of the first restaurants to reopen in the area following the March 26 gas explosion at 121 Second Ave. before the city issued the stop work order.
Diakun’s son also started an online petition to reopen the restaurant on Friday, which has been signed by more than 970 people.