To those not in the know, the recent re-opening of Lower East Side American restaurant and bar Epstein’s is just another new spot in the neighborhood. But to certain neighbors, it’s a disastrous development in a years-long fight between harried locals and what they call a problematic part of Hell Square.
During its 11-year-long tenure at the corner of Stanton and Allen streets, Epstein’s held a reputation as a place to go party — contributing to how that area got the moniker “Hell Square,” for its drunken crowds, noise, and brawls.
New owners Rick Aurigemma and Josh Acheatel acknowledge this, but they are trying to move away from that reputation with this reboot. They also own 310 Bowery, another raucous bar in the East Village but say this is a “totally different concept.”
They’ve hired a new chef named Joe Marchisotta, who worked at Daniel and has created a pub menu with burgers, wings, salads, and wraps. Notably, a brunch offering includes an entree and two drinks for $25. The full menu is below.
“We’re going to be more of a restaurant at this point. We’re not looking to be that bar, standing crowd, loud music place,” Aurigemma says. “The neighborhood doesn’t want that. It’s not calling for another bar with loud music and a line out front.”
But Diem Boyd, director of neighborhood watch group LES Dwellers, isn’t buying it. She points to the fact that one of the minority owners, Erik McManus, is still the same, and that the building is still racking up a slew of violations. She blames the State Liquor Authority for issuing a liquor license to a property and area with a history of issues.
“The problems on that specific corner are still so bad that we have the fire department parked there on the weekend and police stationed outside Hair of the Dog and Pizza Beach,” Boyd says. “So the fact that the [State Liquor Authority] allowed another license to add to an area that is so bad that we have to use tax dollars to have fire department and police to babysit, there is something wrong there.”
Zoning issues were part of the bar’s problems in the past — it had been zoned as a clothing store, so was technically operating illegally. Aurigemma says they have since resolved those problems, which Bowery Boogies notes was through temporary certificates. A final, permanent certificate of occupancy, though, has still not been issued.
Epstein’s — whether people like it or not — is now open Monday and Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., Thursday and Friday from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.