(Photo by Ray Johnson)
Cherry Hill Restaurant and Gourmet Market at Lundy’s received two violations this morning, just hours into their first full work day. The establishment’s existing partial stop work order was also upgraded to a full stop work order, which requires Cherry Hill to pay the city $5,000.
The market first opened its doors to the public yesterday evening in spite of a standing partial stop work order issued in early April. The new violations are for operating without a valid certificate of occupancy and a violation of non-conformity with zoning. In addition to the $5,000 fine, Cherry Hill may receive additional penalties to be decided at an Environmental Control Board court hearing on June 29th.
David Isaev, Cherry Hill’s owner, says he doesn’t care about the violations or fines. Talking on the phone, he seemed fed up with the politics. “I think it’s unfounded,” he said. “We have a responsibility to our employees who expect to go to work and support their families… these are real people.” Cherry Hill has 120 employees.
The issuing of violations suggests the city is siding with opponents of the establishment, including Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, State Senator Carl Kruger and City Councilman Michael Nelson, who say Cherry Hill needs more floor space dedicated to a restaurant in order to meet the requirements of the Special Sheepshead Bay District Zoning. Scavo says the violations are not likely to force it to cease operations, though.
“This is not going to stop them at all,” says Scavo. “They have an attitude that they’ll make a restaurant when they get around to it.”
Isaev, though, says he already has restaurant seating for up to 400 people. “How much more do you want?” he says.
A certificate of occupancy is required by the city to prove that the building is not only legally occupied, but also has been inspected by government officials and shown to meet all safety standards. This includes proof that all construction, electrical and plumbing work has been done to city standards. Cherry Hill opened with an expired temporary certificate of occupancy.
These developments are of little surprise to those who attended last night’s Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Association meeting. When the Cherry Hill issue came up for discussion, many (including Scavo) were confused about whether the store was open. According to attendees, Ken Lazar, the Inter-governmental Liaison for the DOB, boldly stated, “If it’s open, we’ll shut it down.”
Of course, that’s unlikely to happen. The DOB doesn’t have the authority to close a business. However, it can continue to levy violations and fines so long as Cherry Hill serves customers.
In order to avoid that, Cherry Hill will have to close its doors and either convert the property to conform to legal zoning standards – which means a higher percentage of floor space given to its restaurant, or can seek a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals. The latter would leave the space unused for up to 9 months.
Isaev says he plans to meet with DOB officials to see what needs to be done, but he doesn’t plan on closing his store. He says the consistent issuing of stop work orders and violations is a “little weird” since they began when the building was 98% completed. “Every step of the way we were checked and approved by inspectors,” he says.
“Life is a fight,” Isaev adds. “The community knows we’re here to make the community better. So, if a few politicians are against us – we’ll fight City Hall.”