May 30, 2014 By Michael Florio
A prominent Astoria restaurant has finally reopened after a long battle with the health department.
The Strand Smokehouse, located at 25-27 Broadway, reopened on May 22nd, after it was closed for three weeks by the health department after its owner, Tommy Vasilis, refused to let an inspector into his eatery Bakeway NYC, which is located three stores down at 25-21 Broadway.
According to Vasilis, the inspector turned up to examine The Strand Smokehouse and asked to speak to the owner. When an employee went to get him from Bakeway NYC, the inspector followed him and wanted to review both locations, as one entity.
“He had no right to go into Bakeway,” said Vasilis. “It was inspected a week prior and it is a separate entity.”
Vasilis, who is no fan of the health department grading system, said that he also didn’t want to risk getting a lower grade.
Vasilis told the inspector to get out of his store and when he wouldn’t leave he took his suitcase and placed it outside.
The case went to court and it was ruled that Vasilis had to shut down The Strand, Bakeway NYC and another Bakeway he owns on 30th Ave for 20 days. It was a second offense of this type, since a similar incident occurred in 2011.
Vasilis said he told the health department that he didn’t want his establishments to close since his employees would suffer. Instead, he asked for a grace period of three months so he could sell his businesses and leave New York.
“They have taken the fun out of my business,” he said. “I’m 42, I’m ready to retire and leave New York.”
Vasilis said his request was denied as the health department wanted to “teach him to learn to respect them.”
The shutdown may have hurt Vasilis during those 3 weeks, but since he has reopened business has been brisk, he said. The Strand Smokehouse had a record-breaking weekend, according to Vasilis, bringing in around 3,500 customers. Meanwhile his Bakeway stores are doing well too he said.