Controversial ‘John Lamb’ Nightspot Opens Wednesday at the Sago Hotel on Orchard Street

Posted on: September 12th, 2016 at 5:00 am by
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After more than two years in the works, restaurateur Joseph Valentine is finally ready to unveil the John Lamb. The establishment opens Wednesday inside the nascent Sago Hotel at 119 Orchard Street, according to a worker onsite. The sub-grade dining area has been in full view the last couple weeks.

The John Lamb has been pretty controversial ever since Valentine partnered with hotel owner-developer Shimon Avdi instead of his initial target at 119 Essex Street. Not so much over the basement restaurant, but the rooftop terrace, which sits approximately four to ten feet from residential windows of the adjacent 124 Allen Street. Thirteen tenants, alongside the LES Dwellers, fought the application seemingly every step of the way. Despite Avdi’s penchant for being a no-show at eight CB3 meetings since June 2015.

In the end, the John Lamb obtained its approval back in March [PDF], albeit with a strict set of stipulations (that probably won’t be followed anyway). Most importantly for those living in 124 Allen Street is the agreement that there be absolutely no liquor service on the thirty-seat, sixth-floor terrace. Moreover, the outdoor area will have no music and close at 6pm daily. The downstairs restaurant is open until midnight during the week, and 2am Thursday through Saturday.

The state, meanwhile, issued the full liquor license at the end of August.

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Many in the vicinity feel that this “American-style” concept is a potential ruse to install a legit nightclub on the block. It’s not such a stretch – Valentine’s apparent pedigree is all club-based. His family owned and operated the Sphinx club at 51 West 46th Street and purchased the Firebird on midtown’s “Restaurant Row,” which he later ran from 2012 to 2014.

It’s also worth noting that Mr. Valentine was allegedly caught red-handed in a tax evasion scheme at his old place, The Firebird. As a result, he was reportedly forced to remit $35,621 in personal income tax liabilities to the state. His partner at the time, Nicholas Rotundo, also pled guilty for stealing hundreds of thousands in sales tax money collected from customers.

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