NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The business and building operating interchangeably as “Alvin & Friends” or “West Friends Management Group, LLC” at variously “12 Memorial Highway” or “14 Memorial Highway” has been allowed by the City of New Rochelle to illegally operate an outdoor dining area for years.
Alvin & Friends was preparing to open its operations on the sidewalk tonight as Talk of the Sound arrived to make measurements and take photos.
Alvin and Gwen Clayton came outside the restaurant to express their dismay over recent reporting by Talk of the Sound. Advised that our current story was about problems with their Sidewalk Cafe licenses, Alvin said that he had a current license for a Sidewalk Cafe. Informed that the City said otherwise, Gwen said she had the permit and would get it. Ten minutes later Alvin said they did not have a 2017 permit and would take down their sidewalk cafe set up. Later, chairs and tables were removed but the barriers and umbrellas remained.
Over the 5 Sidewalk Permit seasons between 2013 and 2017, Alvin & Friends/West Friends Management Group has held just three permits, none of them valid. There is no record the permits were paid for, that the permit holder had the required liability insurance, submitted required supporting documentation or operated solely within the permitted season from May 15 to December 31 each year.
Alvin & Friends opened at its current location, 12 Memorial Highway, in 2013 and has operated an outdoor dining area in Memorial Plaza Park ever since.
Records obtained by Talk of the Sound raise an assortment of questions.
The Public Works Permit Application for a sidewalk cafe has evolved over the past several years but has several basic requirements: (1) the applicant must be the owner; (2) the application must give the name of the owner; (3) the applicant must sign the application. The requirements do not appear to apply to Alvin & Friends.
The Public Works Permit for a sidewalk cafe has also evolved over the past several years but has several basic requirements: (1) the permit is issued upon payment of the required fee and deposit; (2) the annual permit fees shall be $100 refundable deposit and a non-refundable fee calculated at $3.40 per square foot; (3) permits may be issued only for the period from May 15th to December 31st; (4) permits may be issued only if the applicant provides an insurance certificate naming the D.P.W. as additional insured – now $1 million but was $2 million in the past; (5) permits shall be issued and renewed annually; (6) application shall include a photograph or graphic design and detailed sketch of the tables and chairs indicating all dimensions and locations relative to the adjacent building, curb, and obstructions including signs, hydrants and tree pits; (7) the permit must be signed by the Commissioner of Public Works; (8) any violation of terms SHALL RESULT in termination and forfeiture of the permit.
The Public Works Permits for Alvin & Friends has some specific elements: (1) the partition/barricade must measure 10’0” on sides and 4 partitions in front of window 30’0” wide right of the Main Entrance; (2) pedestrian and vehicular traffic shall not be impeded or obstructed; (3) no tables or chairs will be permitted on any sidewalk which is less than 10 feet from the building to the curb; (4) there must be at least 5 feet clear from the barrier towards the curb; (5) all sidewalk cafes shall cease operations by 10:00 pm Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 pm Friday and Saturday.
The 2013 Sidewalk Cafe Permit for Alvin & Friends was issued on April 12, 2013, more than a month before such permits can be issued. The Permit states it is valid from from 4/12/2013 to 12/31/2013 but the conditions state that no permit may be issued before 5/15/2013.
The application was filed by Theresa Kump Leghorn of West Friends Management Group, LLC. The Permit indicates a total fee of $1,400 and a deposit of $100. The $1,400 fee, at a cost of $3.40 per square foot translates into 411.76 square feet of sidewalk dining space. The permitted space is 10’ by 30’ or 300 square feet. There is no record that payment was made.
The 2013 Sidewalk Cafe Permit for Alvin & Friends is signed by “Scott Pickup, Commissioner”. In 2013, Scott Pickup was the City Manager of Rye, NY not the Public Works Commissioner in New Rochelle. Pickup left Rye under a cloud related to an embezzlement scandal at the Rye Golf Club which is owned by the City of Rye. He was hired as Deputy Commissioner of Public Works in New Rochelle in 2014 and was made Commissioner of Public Works in New Rochelle in 2016.
There is no 2014 Sidewalk Cafe Permit for Alvin & Friends. Despite this, the 2015 Permit application states “Renew sidewalk permit” without indicating which permit is being renewed.
The 2015 Sidewalk Cafe Permit for Alvin & Friends was issued on May 14, 2015 a day before such permits can be issued. The Permit states it is valid from from 5/14/2013 to 12/31/2013 but the conditions state that no permit may be issued before 5/15/2015.
The 2015 Permit indicates a total fee of $300 and a deposit of “on file” (perhaps referencing the $100 in 2013). The $300 at a cost of $3.40 per square foot translates into 88.24 square feet of sidewalk dining space. The permitted space is 10’ by 30’ or 300 square feet.
The 2015 Sidewalk Cafe Permit for Alvin & Friends is also signed by Scott Pickup, as Commissioner of Public Works, a year before he became Commissioner.
The New Rochelle Public Works Commissioner in New Rochelle in 2013 and 2015 was Alex Tergis.
“I have no recollection of seeing a document like that cross my desk,” said Tergis, asked earlier today about the 2013 and 2015 Sidewalk Cafe Permit for Alvin & Friends while he was Public Works Commissioner.
The 2016 Sidewalk Cafe Permit Application for Alvin & Friends does not provide the full name of an applicant, just “Gwen”. Gwen is presumably Alvin’s wife, Gwen Clayton. There is no full name of the owner or responsible person on the permit or the name of the contact for the contractor, listed as Alvin & Friends. There is no signature (or signature date) on the application.
An application without a full name or without a signature or without a contractor contact should have been rejected without further consideration. The 2016 Alvin & Friends permit application had none of these things. Despite this, the permit was issued on May 25, 2016. The Permit states it is valid from from 5/26/2013 to 12/31/2013.
The 2016 Sidewalk Cafe Permit for Alvin & Friends was signed by Scott Pickup on May 25, 2016. Scott Pickup did not become Public Works Commissioner until July 2016.
There is no 2017 Sidewalk Cafe Permit for Alvin & Friends on file with the City of New Rochelle.
For the permits issued in 2013, 2015, 2016 there is no record on file for liability insurance certificates, no photograph or graphic designs, no detailed sketch of the tables and chairs indicating all dimensions and locations, nothing relative to the adjacent building, curb, and obstructions including signs, hydrants and tree pits. (see update below)
As of today, Alvin & Friends has blocked off an area measuring about 16.5’ x 25’ or about 413 square feet. That area has been blocked off in the weeks before May 15, 2017. Business owners in the area tell Talk of the Sound that the sidewalk cafe area at Alvin & friends has been blocked year around for as long as they can remember.
Despite having removed tables and chairs, the current set up is illegal for a variety of reasons even without serving patrons. Without a permit, the entire sidewalk cafe is required to be removed.
The sidewalk cafe has electric lights strung up on a city streetlamp and several city trees. The electric lights are powered through a series of jerry-rigged extensions cords and other forms of illegal temporary wiring. The wiring ends at a single electrical line covered in duct tape and then run into the grouting between two slabs of sidewalk. The line runs through an area with a garden hose used to water the plants in planters and was wet and in a pool of water. The line then runs up the side of the neighboring building to the roof and then disappears from view. The line appears to be powered by electricity from the neighboring building.
There are many other issues with the Sidewalk Cafe permits issued, or not issued, to Alvin & Friends over the years. The permit applications and permits obtained under a Freedom of Information request are linked below.
UPDATE: On May 22, the City provided records pertaining to Sidewalk Cafe Permits for Alvin & Friends in response to a Freedom of Information request by Talk of the Sound. On May 26, before publishing this article, we took the extra step of notifing the City that there were a number of elements missing from the permits for 2013, 2015, and 2016 and that there was no permit at all for 2017. After some research one additional document was provided towards the end of the day on May 26, a liability insurance certifcate for 2013. The 2013 insurance certificate named the Building Department not the D.P.W. but it appears otherwise to be the case that Alvin & Friends did present a suitable insurance certificate in 2013. If any additional records are provided we will update this article accordingly.