Nov. 5, 2018 By Christian Murray
A long-time Astoria restaurateur who has been at odds with the Department of Health in recent years had two of his eateries shut down Friday.
The Strand Smokehouse, located at 25-27 Broadway, and Bakeway NYC, just three doors down at 25-21 Broadway, were both closed by the Health Department on Nov. 2 after an inspector was denied access onto the premises, the city said.
Tommy Visilis, the owner of the eateries, said that the city shut him down unfairly and now 20 employees are out of work.
The issue, he said, began when he denied an inspector access to his back shed behind Bakeway NYC on Thursday morning. He argued that the shed is used solely by The Strand, and that it shouldn’t be part of the Bakeway inspection.
“I told the inspector that my lease states that the shed belongs to the Strand,” Visilis said, who added that he uses the shed to store dry goods, napkins and other items for the smokehouse.
“They wouldn’t accept what I was saying, so I refused to be inspected,” Visilis said.
Inspectors came back the next day, and closed both establishments down.
The department, however, said both establishments were shut down because they share a kitchen.
This is not the first time Visilis’ establishments have been shut down for denying an inspector access. Both establishments—and a third one on 30th Avenue that he owns– were closed in 2014 for three weeks after he refused them access to Bakeway.
The restaurateur claims the health department told him to dispose of all the stored meat during the Friday shutdown, leading Visilis to pour bleach all over the meats.
In response to the shutdown, Visilis’ attorney filed suit that same day against the Department of Health in Queens County court alleging that he was unfairly closed down.
The suit also requested that the restaurants be allowed to stay open until a hearing was held.
But the judge, according to Visilis, denied his request, and the case will now go back to court later this month.
Shortly after the denial, Visilis started printing signs that read, “All we ask DOH is that you treat us equally!!!” The signs went up outside both restaurants Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Visilis is waiting on a letter from the Department of Health that will set a date for him to have an OATH hearing with the city. The hearing, he said, is likely to be around the same time as the separate court case on the matter. He is uncertain as to how both will go.
“I have told my employees to look for work elsewhere since I don’t know when or whether I can reopen,” he said. “I don’t want to feel responsible for them.”