July 17, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Workers who have helped make Pure Food And Wine one of the top raw vegan restaurants in the city have hope this week that new ownership will mean they’ll soon be back at their jobs.
Daniel Schubmehl, a longtime Pure Food And Wine staffer who’s been helping to organize workers hurt by the latest disappearance of flighty owner Sarma Melngailis, confirmed this week that other parties are interested in purchasing the restaurant located at 54 Irving Place, as well as the affiliated One Lucky Duck establishment in Brooklyn.
“There is active interest,” Schubmehl told Labor Press on Thursday.
Pure Food And Wine was forced to shut down this month after Melngailis failed to pay staffers and disappeared for at least the second time this year.
“We just need an investor,” sous chef Miguel Martines said. “We feel like a family. We just get along so well.”
That devotion and willingness to stick with the establishment despite paychecks that have repeatedly bounced, is remarkable, but could also become a vital reason why the restaurant ultimately returns under new ownership.
With Melngailis officially out of the equation, workers say the big challenge now is convincing the existing property owner to welcome a freshly incarnated restaurant.
“We’re trying to petition the landlord to move ahead and keep an ethical sustainable restaurant on Irving Place,” Schubmehl said. “I’m obviously hopeful, but there are no guarantees at this point.”
The steadfast Pure Food Wine and Staff, numbering about 80 in all, in addition to those working at One Lucky Duck in Brooklyn, are betting that the restaurant’s clientele will help convince the property owner that a top-flight vegan restaurant on Irving Place is still a good bet.
“It all depends if people in the community are interested in supporting us,” Martines said.
In a group statement released on Thursday, the Pure Food And Wine staff said, “While Sarma became its highly recognizable face, it was the dedication, creativity and labor of the workers who loved our home that made Pure Food and Wine the successful place that it was.”
Pure Food And Wine has a history of attracting lots of high-profile personalities. Recent diners have included Alec Baldwin and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
On July 23, at 6 p.m., the staff at Pure Food And Wine will hold a community pot luck dinner outside the shuttered establishment at 54 Irving Place in an effort to gain support for the cause.