Angry Dispute Erupts After Tribeca's Roc Restaurant Shuts Down
During the March meeting of Community Board 1's Tribeca Committee, Suyeon Kim, left, owner of 191 Duane Street, confronts Fatmir Caushi, right, over his purchase of a lease for the former Roc restaurant. The restaurant's front door, center, is now padlocked, with farewell notes to customers from former Roc owner Rocco Cadolini. Photos: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
The abrupt closing of Tribeca’s long-established Roc restaurant early this month has left a bitter, three-way conflict in its wake.
Restaurateur Fatmir Caushi had plans to move his own Italian eatery into the Roc location, at 191-A Duane St. He said he had purchased the remaining seven years on the lease of the space—or so he thought—from Roc owner Rocco Cadolini and hoped to open on March 20. But it is a lease that the building’s owner, Suyeon Kim, said Cadolini had no right to sell.
At a meeting of Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee last week, Kim, who has owned the building for three years, and her lawyer were present to oppose a liquor license for Caushi’s new establishment. She said the deal between Cadolini and Caushi was made without her knowledge or consent, and she was livid. Cadolini disputes the claim.
“We just found out the first time today, they sent an email. We had no idea what’s going on,” Kim told the committee at its March 8 meeting. “They got a lump sum of money and sold their lease without letting me know.”
That sum, Caushi told the Trib, was $330,000.
“How is it possible,” Kim went on, “you’re going to give this liquor license to someone who is not legally rented by me? I never met them.”
Now the restaurant is padlocked and Kim, who lives on the floor above, is retaking possession.
In an email, Kim’s lawyer, David Berger, said that several months ago Cadolini had requested permission to sell the business but “the lease is very limiting on how that can be done and we were unable to resolve the request.” There were ongoing disputes, he added, over “noise and timely payment of rent.”
Again, a few weeks ago, according to Berger, Cadolini wrote the landlord that he wanted to sell the business, but “with no meaningful or verifiable information included, nor was it sent in accordance with the notice requirements of the lease.”
“Due to the nature and manner of how the supposed sale was conducted, as well as for several other reasons,” Berger told the Trib, his client began the process of ending the lease and recovering the space.
In the meantime, Caushi’s lawyer claims he and his client had been given assurances by Cadolini’s lawyer that notification had gone to the landlord and “they [the landlord and her attorney] were silent.”
“No news is good news. That is the whole thing that they told me,” Caushi said following the Tribeca Committee meeting.
No sooner had the restaurant closed than Caushi, who is an owner of restaurants in Staten Island and on Columbus Avenue, began work on the space. But he stopped, he said, after neighbors complained about the noise.
On advice of his lawyer, Cadolini declined to answer questions regarding the assertions made by his former landlord and by the intended buyer. Instead, in a statement he read over the phone, Cadolini said he had done nothing wrong. “We believe that we have fully complied with all applicable provisions of our lease and we provided advance notice to the landlord of the sale. We further believe that we will actually resolve our outstanding disputes with the landlord.”
Cadolini and his family are moving to Louisville, Ky., where, in 2015, he bought a building that housed a former cafe and has since made about $2 million in improvements, according to the publication Louisville Business First. Well-known and liked in the Tribeca community, Cadolini had operated Roc for 17 years. In a note of farewell to customers, taped to the restaurant’s front door, Cadolini and his wife Stacy wrote: “It was never our original intention to move but after a succssion of events we decided to make the change. Everything happened very quickly.”
Isidoros Tsamblakos, Caushi’s attorney, told the Trib in a telephone interview that he hopes to reach a deal with the landlord “based on what they think they need” so that Caushi can still open his as-yet-unnamed restaurant in the former Roc space.
As for the money that Caushi said that he paid to Cadolini, “First, we’re trying to resolve this,” Tsamblakos said. “And we’ll see what our legal actions are after the fact if we fail. Right now we’re still in negotiation so I’m not anticipating anything as of yet.”
“I truly don’t want to be in this situation,” Caushi told the committee after Kim and Berger had raised objections to his liquor license application, “because the money was already exchanged. And it’s my biggest concern.”
With the lease dispute outside the purview of the community board, the Tribeca Committee tried to focus only on Caushi’s liquor license application, which they determined to be incomplete. Caushi was told to resubmit it next month. Whether he will have a space to move into by then—or ever—remains to be seen.