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Stage Restaurant Launches Fundraising Campaign to Fight Eviction

Stage Restaurant, the beloved East Village diner, has set up a fundraising campaign to help cover lawyer fees as it fights an eviction notice from its landlord, Icon Realty.

We wrote about the eviction notice just a few weeks ago — Stage had vowed to fight to remain in its address. On the fundraising website, Andrew Diakun, the son of Stage’s longtime owner and proprietor, Roman Diakun, outlines in clear detail why Con Edison issued a stop-work order on the building, and details his grievances against Icon. “Stage Restaurant received an eviction notice from the landlord stating that Stage had to leave the premises by the end of April,” he writes. “The landlord’s reasoning behind the eviction relates to false and malicious claims that the Stage had been siphoning gas before its meter.”

The stop-work order placed on Stage occurred just three days after the East Village gas explosion, which decimated three buildings on Second Avenue, a few hundred yards from the diner.

Stage has held down its cubby in the East Village for 35 years. As of this article’s publishing, it has raised more than $1,200 of the $10,000 goal.

We’ve reached out to the Diakuns for more information on their plans; we’ll update this post if we hear back.

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Really Closed? Source Says Stage Restaurant’s Eviction Notice Is ‘Just the Beginning’

I’ve written before about my deep love for Stage Restaurant, where regulars feast on Ukrainian specialties and greasy-spoon classics — and the best egg on a roll in New York City. It’s a beloved mainstay of the East Village, and last year, the Voice named it one of the 99 Essential Restaurants in Lower Manhattan. So it pains me to see it closed, as it has been for the almost three weeks since a gas explosion tore down three buildings just across the street on Second Avenue. And now it looks like Stage might be done forever.

According to documents obtained by WNYC, the owners of Stage’s building at 128 Second Avenue (ICON Realty) have dealt the restaurant an eviction notice. A stop-work order was put into effect just three days after the gas explosion across the street, when a Con Ed employee noticed illegally tapped gas lines in the basement of Stage’s building following a resident reporting a smell of gas.

It is not completely clear who was tapping the gas line illegally — the landlord points to tenants, while Roman Diakun (the owner and proprietor of Stage) told DNAinfo, “They don’t want me…I didn’t do any crime.” (ICON Realty has a history of kicking restaurants out of spaces.)

This past week, Diakun could be seen outside the restaurant, talking with longtime regulars and local customers. His son, Andrew, has started an online petition to help save the venerable diner, with over 1,000 signatures already collected.

And while the eviction notice says that Stage has to be out by the end of the month, take heart: A source with knowledge of the situation, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, says Diakun has been meeting with lawyers and might not vacate immediately. “It is not the end, it’s just the beginning,” the insider said.

We’ve also reached out to Diakun, and will update here when we hear more.

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Here’s Why Big Bar Is the Best Dive Bar in the City

New York has become a place where we drink $15 cocktails without blinking, and we expect our ice to be of a certain look and shape. And in that environment, I like dive bars for the same reason I like leaving voicemails: they’re personal, and they’re old school.

Much like your favorite pair of jeans or your apartment’s shower, the relationship between you and your regular dive bar is a highly personal one. It takes time, energy, trust, and finances to build that relationship, and with the best places, you pour your resources (and sometimes emotions) in, and the bar embraces you. It’s not just a place to hang your coat, it’s a second living room. This is why I imbibe most frequently in the East Village, despite the fact that I live in Brooklyn. And just like Seinfeld reruns or Revolver, my bar is always there for me when I need it. My bar is Big Bar (75 East 7th Street, 212 777-6969).

Big Bar is, actually, quite small, about the size of a small studio apartment. Ten people inside makes it feel crowded, though not overly so. It’s very comfortable, with no rickety chairs, though you will find a semi-circle bar on the left and a few well-worn booths on the right. That means its always cozy, whether you stop in at 5 p.m. on a weeknight or 4 a.m. on a weekend. And the bathroom might be the smallest in the city.

The joint’s personality is that of an early 1990s Los Angeles singer-songwriter (think Tom Waits); the red lights, black and white color scheme, and small, cheap circular mirrors make it feel a little like a discarded Swingers soundstage. And fittingly, the bar was opened in 1990 by brothers Walter and Raymond Lycholat. Born and raised just down the street in what was then defined as the Lower East Side, the brothers opened the bar “in order to make a living and have a place to go,” says Raymond. “It was a shady neighborhood back then. You would find crack vials outside the door every night until ’95 or ’96, when Giuliani came.”

But while the neighborhood has changed, the service here hasn’t — it’s still friendly and laid back and great. The first time I stopped by, a guy was smoking a cigarette just outside the door. “You guys coming in for a drink?” he asked as we approached.

“Yeah,” we said.

“Cool, I’ll be in in just a minute, make yourselves comfortable,” he said. Here, I’m happy to wait on the bartender finishing his smoke.

Once, after a long night of seeing Sigur Ros play for three hours, my friend Liam and I ventured into the singular window booth, and after repeatedly asking if we could smoke (inside the bar), I fell asleep at the table. Stefan Rak, longtime bartender and now an owner, politely asked us to leave, without a voice raised or finger thrown. Just a few days later, he was happy to see us again and ask, exactly, what we were doing that evening. Like I said, a living room.

Big Bar also gets its music right. The bartenders — there’s never more than one on duty — choose their own playlists, which contain a range from De La Soul to John Zorn. On a good night, you’ll find bartender Dax Carson, who’s a DJ on off nights, selecting the music on a whim throughout the evening.

Drinking at Big Bar is not complicated; bartenders make just about anything you want fairly decently, and the place has only one beer on tap (Blue Point Lager). I usually go for a Campari on the rocks or, if in an adventurous mood, a freshly made margarita.

But then, you shouldn’t come here for the drinks. You should come for conversation and to relax and to enjoy the best of the quickly diminishing East Village.