Restaurateurs Will Wyatt and Eric Kruvant — co-owners of playful East Village cocktail spot Mister Paradise — have decided to temporarily shut down the bar following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandate last month that all drinks should be served with full meals. Neighborhood news site EVGrieve first reported the closure.
The mandate, they say, was a crippling restriction on top of an already difficult operating environment. Across the city — and in the East Village — they’ve witnessed the State Liquor Authority dole out whopping fines and yank liquor licenses during the pandemic. SLA inspectors were reportedly crawling over the premises, taking photos of customers’ food and requesting point-of-sale data to prove that each diner had ordered a full meal with their drink, according to the owners.
It got to the point where “we were scared of everyone who would show up with a backpack,” Wyatt says. “People would finish their meals and we wouldn’t even clear the tables.”
The pair say that they were keeping Mister Paradise open not so much to generate real sales, but rather for regulars in the neighborhood who missed the bar and to provide jobs for a handful of staffers. They have a good relationship with their landlord and worked out an agreeable rent deal during the pandemic. The bar’s outdoor dining area is only a small handful of tables and chairs, and customers typically frequent the spot as a place to grab drinks before or after dinner. Since they weren’t bringing in a ton of money from the setup, they say it didn’t make sense to keep the place open at the risk of a hefty fine or a liquor license suspension.
Forcing customers to buy food when they had just come from another meal also “felt wasteful,” Wyatt says. “They would buy the food and if they weren’t hungry, they wouldn’t eat it.”
Wyatt and Kruvant say that they are discussing possibilities for offering to-go cocktails from the space — although that is a minefield, too, following Cuomo’s order that bars must be responsible for social-distancing enforcement and open container laws for an 100-foot radius around an owner’s establishment. For now, they are directing Mister Paradise customers towards Pretty Ricky’s, another bar and restaurant that they run with more outdoor dining space that’s located a half-mile away, on the Lower East Side.
The pair had been doing “everything that we could” to maintain social-distancing protocols and serve customers safely at the bar, Wyatt says. “If that rule that you have to eat when you drink goes away, we would reopen that day.”