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Nino's Pizza Closes for Good Due to High Rent, Owner Says

By John Santore | February 18, 2016 4:18pm
 Nino Camaj, owner of Nino's Pizza, said the shop is closed for good, adding that he could no longer afford his rent.
Nino Camaj, owner of Nino's Pizza, said the shop is closed for good, adding that he could no longer afford his rent.
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DNAinfo/Lisha Arino

EAST VILLAGE — Nino’s Pizza has closed for good, owner Nino Camaj confirmed to DNAinfo New York on Wednesday.

The pizza joint was shuttered last year due to a gas leak in an adjacent building, though Camaj had posted signs on the window saying he intended to reopen.

But Camaj said Wednesday that his $14,500 monthly rent bill was too high and that he had turned over his lease to property owner Citi-Urban Management.

When Nino's opened at 131 St. Marks Place in 1989, the monthly rent was $3,500, Camaj said.

“I’m not making any money before I closed,” he said. “I’m breaking even.”

Citi-Urban Management did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.

Camaj said he still wants to run a pizzeria in the neighborhood, and will open a new one if he can find a more affordable location.

The space’s future was the subject of heated debate at a Tuesday Community Board 3 meeting, where investor James Morrisey detailed plans for a new venture, an Irish-inspired bar and restaurant called The Honey Fitz, that would include the Nino's space.

He was also there to get the board's blessing for a liquor license.

Morrissey, who owns The Late Late at 159 E. Houston St., wants to open The Honey Fitz in a space that would connect the now closed Hop Devil Grill with Nino’s, as first reported by EV Grieve.

Morrissey said the The Honey Fitz would feature furniture made in Ireland, offer grab-and-go breakfast in the morning, and provide a co-working space during the day where “young creatives” could take advantage of free Wi-Fi and printing.

The proposal was met with vocal opposition from a group of residents, such as Avenue C’s Danielle Cusson, who said the area has been taken over by “destination drinking, and it has been painful to watch.”

“Please don’t turn us into another Cancun,” Cusson said.   

Questions were also raised by CB3 members about whether Camaj still held the lease to the pizzeria, an issue that remained unclear at the time.

At the meeting, Morrissey withdrew his alcohol license application, though he said Wednesday that he remains interested in the space as long as the lease issue has been resolved. 

Asked Thursday about community objections to adding a new bar and restaurant to the block, Morrissey said his record at The Late Late proves that he's a responsible business owner. 

"I don't want to come into a neighborhood and step on anyone's toes," Morrissey said. "I'm not in the game of trying to make a quick buck. We want [our properties] to become cornerstones of the community."