Whynot Coffee on Orchard Street Loses Its Wine-Beer License in SLA Ruling

Posted on: June 4th, 2015 at 5:00 am by
This image has been archived or removed.

Whynot Coffee sustained a deadly blow in early May when the State Liquor Authority officially terminated its wine and beer license at 175 Orchard Street. The board unanimously stonewalled owner Emil Stepkov and his counsel (Donald Bernstein) for duping the community over its half-baked “art” concept. And for the LES Dwellers, it’s another storied victory, the second on this battered block of Orchard in as many months (i.e. Sixth Ward).

The “art-driven” coffee shop had appeared before the legal panel as part of a disciplinary hearing on various violations. Namely, ignoring the binding stipulations and changing the method of operation. Cited infractions included live music, dancers (Whynot doesn’t possess cabaret license), and loud music pumping past agreed-upon 10pm limit. Stepkov acknowledged that the “art wasn’t selling” (only two exhibitions in a year) and that there was “no point [selling it] anymore.” Given that this was the premise on which Whynot was founded, the SLA wasn’t pleased with being kept in the dark. And they made that fact known.

In the end, the SLA called bullshit, and decided to punish the problem child by canceling the wine-beer license at 175 Orchard Street. The measure is a lesser of two evils, so to speak. Stepkov can still apply for liquor at a different establishment; if it had been revocation, there’s a 3-year penalty period. Meanwhile, the license is now listed as “inactive” in the SLA database.

This image has been archived or removed.

The hot-under-the-collar Bernstein, for his part, went berserk over the judgement, calling the action excessive and outlining the reasoning. He was quickly cut off by one of the SLA lawyers who told him to fuck off in as many words – “Tell me about it in your Article 78 filing (an appeal of a state decision).”

“It was pretty clear from the beginnig what [Stepkov’s ] intentions were, LES Dwellers co-founder Diem Boyd tells us. “It was to open another late night bar with DJs and music. The disingeniuos art front was exposed, and Hell Square dodged a bullet.”

“The cancelation of Whynot’s license was the result of residents saying something and doing something. This is what we are about; empowering residents to stand up to law breaking operators and ensuring law breaking operators are held to the full extent of the law.”

The irony in all this drama is that Stepkov built a business banking on the liquor license, but created a popular coffee shop instead. Whynot just leave it at that, expand the menu and increase the daytime foot traffic that the area needs? That’s the real public benefit.

Needless to say, Whynot remains in business as its name implies. Coffee. No alcohol. And probably no transformation to that suspect Sushi Wa concept, which netted Community Board 3 approval under the same strict stipulation.

However, at this point, all credibility with Stepkov seems lost at this point.

Recent Stories

Developer Begins Demolition of Rutgers Street Playground for Temporary Parking Lot

Demolition work began this week on a Lower East Side park that is a focal point in the tension between the community and developers on the waterfront. The backhoes are out and job now underway at Rutgers Park, the small public space beside the Lands End II residential development. Removal of the playground began yesterday, including […]

The 3 Lower East Side Walk-ups that Sold for $35M

Earlier this month, we reported that SMA Equities, the Long Island real estate firm with controversial history on the Lower East Side, sold a portfolio of its area properties. SMA unloaded three tenement walk-ups to Daniel Fishman of GAIA Real Estate – 102 Norfolk Street, 177 Ludlow Street, and 99 Allen Street – for an […]

H&M Debuts Pop-up Hotel on the Bowery this Weekend

Fashion retailer, H&M, is headed to the Lower East Side this week with a pop-up hotel concept. Starting tomorrow, prospective guests can access the so-called Hotel Hennes via the eponymous 3 Freeman Alley. The three-day publicity stunt will be open through Saturday, from 2 to 9pm. Guests will be able to check in for an […]

Sneakerhead Arrested for Knifing Customer at Hypebeast ‘HBX’ Opening on Division Street

A watershed moment for Hypebeast transformed into a melee on the Lower East Side last week. The Hong Kong-based fashion and lifestyle publication on Friday officially debuted in the seven-story commercial loft building at 41-43 Division Street. Its ground-level store – dubbed HBX – attracted a queue of sneaker heads waiting for a limited edition Nike […]

Arsonist Torches Eldridge Street Beauty Parlor

Two people were injured yesterday evening after an arsonist set ablaze a beauty parlor on Eldridge Street, according to several published reports. The incident transpired shortly before 5:00pm at the Sa Sa II Beauty Salon, located at 129 Eldridge Street. Cops said the suspect poured gasoline inside the store and set it on fire. (Initial […]