Local Mexican restaurant Papasito suffered a major blow in its ongoing feud with community members this month when the State Liquor Authority decided not to renew its liquor license for 2013.
The bar and grill, located on Broadway between 104th and 105th streets, has been the subject of seemingly constant complaints over the past year, ranging from concerns over the rowdy behavior of its evening customers to violations for serving underage drinkers. It has been temporarily closed several times since it opened in September 2011, and it will likely have to stop selling alcohol at the end of the year.
Community Board 7 voted last year to recommend that the liquor authority not renew Papasito’s license. But according to CB7 chair Mark Diller, it’s not clear whether the company that holds the restaurant’s liquor license is actually operating the business.
A company called Tokyo Pop LLC holds the liquor license, even though a different company, Papasito Midtown Corporation, operates the restaurant, Diller said, raising questions about whether Papasito should even be allowed to serve liquor right now.
“It’s really important the person who receives the license is the person who should operate the business,” Diller said. “We’re supposed to know who receives liquor licenses. It carries certain responsibilities towards community.”
Diller acknowledged that the lack of a liquor license might force Papasito to close.
“It’s not good for the community to have vacant, boarded-up store fronts, but we want responsible operators … who embrace the transparency required instead of chafing at it,” he said. “They know these rules—these are not things they’re confused about.”
Leonel Baizan, the manager at Papasito, declined to comment about what entity holds the restaurant’s liquor license. He said only that the restaurant has worked hard over the last year to become more community-friendly.
“We have not had the lounge, we took away the loud music, we changed the image of the restaurant,” he said.
“Local neighbors have congratulated us—this now is who we really are,” he added.
Despite Baizan’s assurances, some residents are still apprehensive about the restaurant.
“It’s a family-oriented neighborhood, so if there are fights, then they shouldn’t have their license,” Upper West Side resident Morgan Theves said. “People only go there to drink, that’s the bottom line—which is fine, but if they can’t control them,” they shouldn’t be serving alcohol, he said.