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Brooklyn Man Charged With Arson in Bushwick Nightclub Fire

Plus, Italian restaurants are ‘banning’ garlic — and more intel

Security footage of a man in a hooded sweatshirt pouring gasoline on the floor of a bar in Brooklyn.
Security footage of a man pouring gasoline on the floor of Rash.
New York Police Department

A 24-year-old Brooklyn man has been arrested and charged with setting fire to Bushwick nightclub Rash, a known hangout for queer New Yorkers. The man, John Lhota, was arrested on Wednesday and made an appearance in Federal District Court in Brooklyn the following day, where he pleaded not guilty, according to the New York Times. If convicted of the crimes, he could face up to 40 years in prison, prosecutors tell the publication.

It’s a chance to exhale for the nightclub’s owners and workers, who say they had “gone into hiding” out of fear in the two weeks since the fire. “We’re definitely feeling a lot safer over here,” Jake Sillen, an owner of Rash, tells the Times.

According to prosecutors, Lhota entered Rash on April 3, splashing gasoline on its floors and deliberately setting fire to the bar using a handheld lighter, injuring two employees and “completely destroying” the Bushwick bar. Although Lhota is not currently being charged with a hate crime — the cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute — workers at the bar still consider the incident a targeted attack. “In the last couple of years it seems there’s no question that violence against queer nightlife has been on the rise,” Sillen tells the Times.

Customers want ‘less garlic’ at Italian restaurants

Italian restaurants are cutting back on garlic to please customers “worried about their breath,” the New York Post reports — and the pandemic is at least partially to blame. “Imagine eating a meal with garlic and putting a mask on,” Thomas Makkos, owner of Upper East Side restaurant Nello, told the Post. “You’re breathing your own bad breath.” In addition to Nello, Manhattan Italian restaurants Fasano and Osteria 57 are cutting back on the pungent allium in an effort to let other flavors — and apparently, smells — shine.

A halal birria shop looks to expand

Birria LES, a Lower East Side restaurant known for its halal birria, appears to be expanding. According to EV Grieve, the birria shop put up signage on a restaurant space in the East Village that formerly housed Japanese chain Ramen Setagaya, at 34 St. Mark’s Place, between Second Avenue and Third Avenue. The business, which also sells linguine in consomé, chicken birria, and esquites, opened on the Lower East Side last year and found a following among young Muslims, thanks to food influencer accounts like @halalnyc and @muslimfoodies.

Pandemic meal delivery for NYC seniors is coming to an end

New York City is calling it quits on its pandemic food delivery program, an emergency program created during the pandemic to get meals to seniors at risk of contracting coronavirus. According to Gothamist, the program was always meant to be temporary, with the intention of transitioning those in need to the city’s permanent home-delivered meals program. Of the roughly 8,000 New Yorkers getting pandemic meal delivery, only 3,000 or so would be considered as candidates for the permanent program, officials with the Department for the Aging tell Gothamist. The program comes to an end on June 30th.

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