2011-05-06 / Front Page

Concession Questions

By Nicholas Briano

The leader of the new boardwalk concessionaire consortium that will operate for the next eight years was sued by a group of former employees last year for accusations that include claims of underpayment of minimum wage, cash payments and no overtime pay, according to a suit filed in federal court.

David Selig is the co-owner of the popular small chain of “Rice” restaurants stationed in DUMBO (Brooklyn) and Nolita (Manhattan) and formerly in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Fort Greene. Selig is also the operator of trendy surferfriendly Rockaway Taco. Starting this summer Selig and others will operate three boardwalk concessions and up to 20 mobile food carts.

According to a report published by The Local, a New York Times affiliate website, the “Rice” lawsuit was filed by six former employees that worked at several locations. The reported $90,000 settlement reached between Selig and the plaintiffs forced him to shut down the Fort Greene “Rice” restaurant this past January. According to court documents, the former employees accused Selig of alleged overtime pay violations and improper bookkeeping violations. The plaintiff said the owners of “Rice” routinely paid them in cash envelopes, below minimum wage, and had them reportedly work upwards of 78-hour work weeks without proper overtime pay.

Even though no formal announcement has been made of who exactly will be parading the boardwalk selling shellfish sandwiches and empanadas, it appears that Selig already has the keys for the property as workers have been spotted inside the concessions as early as last week. The consortium has also applied for a liquor license which the vendors hope will allow people to purchase alcoholic beverages they can imbibe around the premises of the concessions. Alcohol is currently banned on the beach and boardwalk by the Parks Department. According to a spokesperson for the Department of Parks and Recreation, the agency denies that any formal contract has been signed involving Selig’s operation. Parks also added, though, that it’s standard procedure during the contract finalization period for concessionaires to apply for liquor licenses in advance. It’s also common practice, they say, to allow a concessionaire in the contract stage to have access to the property so he or she can begin cleaning out the site in preparation for construction. Parks insists that no formal construction work has started, that the prospective concession holders are just cleaning a property that is not yet officially theirs.

Selig has also applied for another liquor license to open a wine bar near Rockaway Taco and has formed the boardwalk consortium with several north Brooklyn and East Village restaurants to contribute items to the Boardwalk’s menu. Restaurants that will make up Rockaway Beach Club, Inc. include Rockaway Taco, DUMBO’s Vinegar Hill, East Village’s Caracas Arepa Bar, Roberta’s in Bushwick or East Williamsburg (as some real estate agents prefer to call it) and Meat Hook in Williamsburg which, based on menus, will provide locals the only chance to get a hot dog or hamburger along the boardwalk this summer.

It’s not known if any other local businesses submitted a request for proposal to the Parks Department. The Wave was denied access to the names of other companies making bids, but has made a formal request to Parks under the Freedom of Information Law to obtain the other concession proposals.

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