It turns out art-loving, gluten-fighting bar Heathers, the plight of which was documented in last weekend’s Times “City” section, isn’t the only unlikely undesirable on its East 13th Street block: Stephen Choi, an artist and former owner of Mondo Cane blues bar, and Erica Rubin, a schoolteacher and opera singer, planned to open Opus NY, an intimate art gallery and classical-music, blues, and jazz venue just down the street, in the former Filthmart clothing shop, in September. “I’m interested in the arts, not in crazy people getting drunk,” explains Rubin. But despite assurances that she has thoroughly soundproofed the venue and will be working with respected maestros like Mara Waldman to promote music education, neighbors are working to keep the spot from opening, wary of noise and skeptical that the pending wine-and-beer license will be used merely for a concession stand (“like at Lincoln Center,” says Rubin).
The community board has recommended denial of the requested license; the owners believe the board also provoked the Buildings Department to conduct an unusually exacting audit, costing them $24,000 in rent and an estimated $100,000 in lost revenue over the months they’ve been awaiting a Certificate of Occupancy. (Having optimistically purchased tables, chairs, and a crystal chandelier, Choi and Rubin are so deep in the red that a former publicist is suing them for unpaid wages.) But Steven Salvesen of R.I.P. Construction Consultants, an expediter who deals with the Buildings Department on similar cases, believes the objections inspectors have raised are not unusual and that a temporary certificate could’ve been secured in as little as three weeks. “In my opinion they’ve just been slacking,” he says. Which you’d think would make Opus a perfect fit for the East Village. —Daniel Maurer