A process server representing the owners of a proposed bar and restaurant in Gravesend that was denied a liquor license interrupted Community Board 15′s September meeting last night, serving papers for a $180 million lawsuit that claims the Board conspired to defame the owners, and discriminated against them based on their Russian roots.

Pleasure Island, also known as Galaxy, located at 816 Avenue U, was denied a liquor license by the State Liquor Authority in 2011 – and again by the Community Board earlier this year – after locals learned of plans to reactivate a bar that some said was a hotbed for underage drinking and rowdiness. The lawsuit claims, though, that those neighbors were misled by numerous community leaders in a smear campaign orchestrated by Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, possibly for discriminatory reasons.

“She’s saying these people aren’t Jewish enough,” Susan Bernstein, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told Sheepshead Bites. “She wants what she wants in that neighborhood. A Community Board isn’t a despotic agency that can decide what business can open and close. They spread intentional lies about the two individuals involved.”

According to the documents, the plaintiffs – listed as Pleasure Island (d/b/a Galaxy Island), and owners Marat Zagorin and Mark Shteynshlyuger – purchased the location of a shuttered sushi spot that previously operated as a bar named Pleasure, and were renovating it between January 2011 and May 2011. Zagorin is the majority shareholder, with 90 percent interest, and Shteynshlyuger, a former shareholder of the previous bar, came aboard with 10 percent interest.

The duo claim to have spent $425,000 during construction and $190,000 in additional expenses – all of which is lost due to the opposition, along with $4.5 million in gross revenues.

Although they say their intent to build a restaurant and bar at the spot was clear from the beginning, they claim in the documents that the defendants did not raise any objections until work was completed. They point out that Scavo lives two blocks from the location and visited the work site.

It wasn’t until after the money was spent, the papers say, that Scavo, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, and State Senator Marty Golden set out on a malicious campaign to smear the owners and prevent them from obtaining a liquor license.

“These are two guys who made huge investments, as our complaint states. Scavo saw the work, and nobody said stop work because we’re going to be against this. They waited until they finished,” said Bernstein.

The local leaders made claims regarding violations for sales of liquor to minors, noise issues, parking violations and general disturbances – allegations the bar owners say are false and say there’s no proof of.

Zagorin and Shteynshlyuger also said that Scavo’s claims that Community Board 15 had received “300 phone calls in opposition to the granting of this license” has not been proven, and FOIL requests they sent to the Board produced no documentation.

The complaint goes on to target Scavo specifically for allegedly discriminating against the business owners for opening a Russian non-Kosher restaurant. They say Scavo “is emphatic in her position that she does not want a Russian non-Kosher restaurant opening in that community,” and, “personally does not want a Russian non-Kosher restaurant near her residence.”

“They can’t say you can’t open a business here because you don’t meet our standards or religiousity. And that’s what they did. That’s what their objections are based on. Plus nonsense,” Bernstein said. She adds that the plaintiffs have an audio recording of Scavo to back up their claims.

They also allege Scavo purposely spread false information to the community, saying the business would be an “adult establishment, strip club or a topless dance club.” Bernstein notes that this was aided by the establishment’s proposed name, Pleasure Island, which carries an implication that the owners, two Russian nationals, weren’t aware of.

“They didn’t realize when they named it that it would have ambiguous meanings,” Bernstein said. “The Community Board seized on that name and then spread those rumors that it would be a gentleman’s club or a strip joint.”

The lawsuit names the Board, each of the Board’s executive members, the State Liquor Authority and its commissioners, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, Senator Golden, and the City of New York as defendants. The lawsuit demands a minimum of $10 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages for each of its nine complaints. The complaints are as follows:

  • Violations of the First Amendment, Equal Protection and Due Process Rights
  • Conspiracy to Deprive Plaintiffs of Constitutional Rights
  • Neglect to Prevent Conspiracy
  • National Origin Discrimination (state)
  • Religious Discrimination (state)
  • National Origin Discrimination (city)
  • Religious Discrimination (city)
  • Defamation
  • Tortious Interference with Contract

Even if the money doesn’t come through, Bernstein said that’s not necessarily the end goal.

“What we’re hoping is to have the State Liquor Authority reverse their denial on the grounds that the objections are illegal,” she said.

Sheepshead Bites will reach out to the defendants for a response.

CB Pleasure Lawsuit

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  • Kon

    Fuck Community Board 15. I am going to start my own Community Board. With black jack, and hookers. 

    • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

      Keep in mind that this is a very one-sided story. We have not yet reached out to all those who are targeted by this lawsuit, and you can be sure they’ll have a different story to tell.

      • Kon

        Ned. Would you rather go to a Community Board with a bunch of out of touch old people, or a community board with black jack and hookers?

        • nolastname

          Jack Daniels and Hookahs.

        • Arthur Borko

          Do the hookers have a union and healthcare? If they are clean then sure why not.

      • nolastname

        A different story but with a new swing. Sounds like a lot to be delivered on one plate. If it is not substantiated then one hell of a defamation case.

      • Justthefacts

        You videotaped the April 24 meeting where the board ripped apart the request by the owners for the license.  It could be powerful evidence in their claim?

        • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

          At your request, I just rewatched that video. I’m not quite sure what you believe backs up their claim here, but, then, I’m no lawyer (or even a juror, for that matter). If you would like to talk specifics, please e-mail me at nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

    • nolastname

      That’s Jack Daniels and hookah’s and I’m in.

    • Anon

      To Mr. Bender B. Rodriguez,

      Your application for a license to operate a community board with blackjack and hookers has been denied.

      Sincerely,
      CB 15

      • Kon

        Bite my shiny metal ass.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    I can’t believe there is personal bias here. Other establishments nearby operate without opposition. It was the experience of their earlier venture that alienated residents. Of course this is really not unknown, as it has been covered in earlier articles on Sheepshead Bites.

  • Anon

    $180M? Is their lawyer Dr. Evil?

    $180M for a denied liquor license? I don’t know a lot about liquor licenses but let me get a buddy of mine in here who’s an expert on liquor license.
    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/V5R5xWVqzmQ/0.jpg
    Best I can give you is tree fiddy.

  • Andrew Kent

    A Russian non-Kosher restaurant?  I didn’t know that many Russian restaurants even were Kosher or that many Russians even cared.  There’s got to be a whole lot more to this story.

    • Georgia

      Yes I think so also

    • http://twitter.com/nicktherat Nick the Rat

      arent most russians atheist? There is something else going on here :D

  • Alex

    Community Board 15 is right! We don’t need no stinking businesses, we need more yeshivas and synagogues!

    • Alex

      Tax free, of course.

    • theguywhocare

      Alex, also we need to build more Mosques in residential communitys in people backyards like one on Voorhies ave. 

      • Justachln

        we need more nail salons

  • nolastname

    Bernstein vs Scavo….
    Never heard of Bernstein but look out Scavo here she comes.

    • Georgia

      I never heard of Bernstein either. I know Scavo will be up at bat and ready for what ever she faces.

      • nolastname

        You are right there. I just don’t think it will be pretty.

        • Georgia

          It’s a mess lets see what happens. But to serve papers at a community board meeting? The city will serve anywhere that’s how its done. No matter where, who, or what they just serve the papers.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

             The City didn’t serve the papers, the suing parties did.

          • Georgia

            Thank you Lisanne your right I had to read it over again lol

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            Reading the lists of Plaintiffs and Defendants and sorting them out can confuse even the best attorneys.

  • Susan

    other bars have tried suing commiunity boards–always gets thrown out as Community Board opinions are only advisory. However, tax payer money / time is spent dealing with this nonsense as City Law Dept will handle this.

    • Arthur Borko

      Advisory doesn’t mean they lack influence or culpability. If the plaintiff can prove that he was denied a liquor license because the people representing the CB made Libelous/Slanderous statements then he’s got a legit gripe.

  • http://twitter.com/nicktherat Nick the Rat

    OH SNAP. SHE GOT SERVED! 

  • Pingback: Bullet Points: Community Board 15 – September 24, 2012 | Sheepshead Bay News Blog

  • Ysyg465

    Seems like  bar owners tried to do everything by law.  They made a right  choice: not bribe public officials for “help”. Now here is the result. No liquor license.  Very sad…

  • tjj

    hilarious