Volume 76, Number 1 | May 24 - 30, 2006

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

With his employees gathered around him, Alexander Achilleos, owner of The Place, holds up some of the thousands of petitions signed by customers and neighbors asking Achilleos’s landlord to let the restaurant stay.

On 4th St., The Place fights being displaced with power of a petition

By Roslyn Kramer

For a restaurant blending Village charm and good food without a break-the-bank tab, an obvious choice is The Place at 310 W. Fourth St. But get there soon, because the landlord seems determined by midsummer to put this local eatery out of business.

Restaurateur Alex Achilleos got the bad news when the building’s owner, Edith Rappy, recently refused to renew the restaurant’s lease under any terms after nearly a year of negotiations — a year in which Achilleos made improvements to the building at his own expense, adding a needed emergency exit, which tenants also can use. Yet, at the last minute, his lease was not renewed without explanation. The emergency exit through the restaurant’s kitchen was almost completed, but not quite; the lease was due to be signed in a week when the landlord abruptly shut down negotiations. 

According to Achilleos, by March when negotiations broke down, he had sunk $70,000 into the still-incomplete fire exit through his kitchen.

Restaurants go out of business all the time. But instead, Achilleos has been fighting back with a high-visibility petition-writing and publicity campaign.

Three weeks ago, Achilleos thought his lease would be renewed, based on an agreement he made with the building’s managing agent, Milton Taube of Taube Management. Achilleos agreed to fix building violations; above all, creating an emergency exit through his kitchen for the tenants living above. 

“I corrected many landmark violations for them,” he says.

“Tenants are imperiled because there’s no escape route,” Achilleos pointed out. “The owners don’t care about the tenants; they could be burned to a cinder,” he said. “This has been ongoing since 2002 and they’ve done nothing about it.”

Achilleos believes what’s happening to him isn’t unique, but part of a larger picture now playing out, transforming the area.

“The Meatpacking District is encroaching on the Village, but this time it’s the arrival of Odeon, from Tribeca,” he said.

Cafe Rosso on the corner of 12th St. has sold out and will be replaced by Odeon. It’s suspected Odeon may also try to take over The Place’s space.

The new place — as opposed to The Place — Achilleos thinks, could have a big drawback for neighbors: Odeon reportedly will stay open until 2 a.m. — not so good for residents trying to sleep in and around W. Fourth and 12th Sts. with its narrow streets. He’s also concerned about the jobs of his 25 employees.

Taube, 310 W. Fourth St.’s managing agent, and Steve Aronowitz, Odeon’s owner, did not return calls for comment.

In just one week, Achilleos collected 5,000 written signatures at The Place, on his Web site, www.savetheplace.com, and by fax (212-283-8880). He also owns another restaurant in the West Village, The Place II, at 142 W. 10th St., where patrons and passersby can sign the petition as well.

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