Lawsuits

How the ADA and a Lawsuit Mill Could Turn Out the Lights on One of New York's Last Punk Rock Bars

Manitoba's, one of the last punk rock dive bars in New York's East Village, fights for its life.

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When Handsome Dick was merely a "secret weapon"
Epic Records

Manitoba's, one of the last punk rock dive bars in New York's East Village, owned by former Dictators frontman "Handsome Dick" Manitoba, could be headed for a premature end. Its would-be executioner is not rising rents or gentrification, but the hefty cash settlement of a lawsuit with its origins in "a small wrinkle in the interplay between State and Federal law."

According to a statement from Manitoba and wife/co-owner Zoe Hansen, they were "forced to reluctantly settle a case with a private individual for a cumbersome amount that threatens the future of the establishment." In order to "keep the lights on, the beer cold and the jukebox playing," they are attempting to crowdfund $25,000 via IndieGogo.

The lawsuit in question was filed by Luigi Girotto, 50, a resident of the affluent suburb of Rye, NY. As reported by Ben Fractenberg for DNAinfo New York, Girotto has sued dozens of businesses for failing to comply with regulations required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Girotto has been confined to a wheelchair since injuring himself skiing, and claims that on a trip to the East Village with his son, the lack of a ramp forced him to sit in the car while his son patronized Manitoba's. Girotto then went to Casmir, a neighboring restaurant which also lacked wheelchair access, and subsequently sued them as well. 

DNAinfo reports:

(Girotto) said he has not profited from any of the lawsuits and all the money won goes to the attorneys who represent him at The Weitz Law Firm in Florida and the spinal cord injury foundation JustADollarPlease

"I don't require small businesses to do major renovation work, but they need to make it accessible," Girotto said, adding that he would be satisfied if businesses had a portable ramp they could bring outside when someone in a wheelchair needed to enter.

B. Bradley Weitz, the managing attorney at The Weitz Law Firm, was described by Forbes as running a "lawsuit mill." In 2013, he and his colleague, Adam Shore, were rebuked by U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. for "charging excessive fees, practicing shoddy law, and possibly concocting the mysterious (plaintiff), who repeatedly failed to show up in court to prosecute his own lawsuit." The New York Times reported that Weitz and Shore "typically (charge) $425 per hour for a total of $15,000 per case" and "had filed as many as 10 cases in a single day." 

Girotto's lawsuit sought only $500 in damages, plus attorney's fees. Yet, Manitoba's is raising $25,000 to cover the costs of the settlement. 

Reason's Brian Doherty has written extensively on the vagaries of the ADA, which can be an "expensive headache to millions without necessarily improving the lives of its supposed beneficiaries." Reason Contributing Editor Walter Olson played party pooper on the feel-good law's 20th anniversary, noting that the Act has lined the pockets of lawyers while affecting very little change in the lives of the disabled:

"One reason for the law's immunity from criticism is that it is defended as a matter of identity politics: if you're against it, then you must be against the people it protects."

Olson also lamented that emotional reactions to the law make it appear "rude…to mention the money-driven ADA 'filing mills' in California, Florida and other states under which complainants roam the land filing hundreds of similar complaints against local businesses which their lawyers then convert into assembly-line cash settlements."

In the meantime, Manitoba's fights for its continued existence as the still living embodiment of New York's punk rock history, ensuring its potential crowdfund supporters that "Not one penny goes into the owner's pockets, or is being used to pay bills. All of it goes to settling this claim and keeping the bar open." (emphasis theirs)

Though Manitoba's makes its home on Avenue B, below you may choose to rock out to the Dictators' tribute to the East Village, "Avenue A," if so inclined:

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  1. I still hate Bob Dole for this shit.

  2. I know I should be pissed about this but when you use East Village NY folks getting screwed by big gov its just so hard. Next you’ll be using baby rapist executions as an example of cruel and unusual punishment

    1. Yes, because using your amazing psychic powers, you just know what Manitoba thinks, believes in, or voted for. Oh wait, you don’t have psychic powers, just moronic regional collectivism. You must be so proud.

      1. Touchy aren’t we

        1. Not really. Do you dislike having your retarded collectivism pointed out?

          1. Yeah I should have probably included the whole city.

        2. Where do you live? I suppose your neighbors are all libertarians.

          1. No. Mostly idiots just like everywhere. Statist didn’t put themselves in office.

    2. The East Village was my stomping grounds back in the day – your generalization is misguided.

      1. Fair enough.

        1. I was half joking anyway. Not like anybody here has ever made generalizations before.

          1. No prob. When I find out where you live, I’ll shit all over it in a future thread 🙂

            1. Columbus, Ohio. Knock yourself out:) you can start with Buckeye fans. I hear we’re all assholes.

              1. I don’t know the first thing about Ohio or whatever sport you’re referring to. Oh well.

              2. With that running game, I’ll give you my asshole pass for a month or two.

                1. Yeah, considering how that offensive line looked at the beginning of the season that was quite something.

                  1. Yeah. I’m no fan of Meyer, but he and his staff earned some credit this year.

              3. AlmightyJB|1.21.15 @ 7:51PM|#

                Columbus, Ohio.

                yeah, i changed a flight there.

                1. I took a shit in Cleveland once.

    3. I have to agree. Look, first of all, you don’t know their politics. Secondly, even if they’re liberals or progressives, so what? The point of rights is that you don’t have to be likable to have them. Thirdly, why the fuck does every fucking decision in life have to be about fucking politics? Manitoba’s is a cool bar. I go there sometimes. Guess what? At no fucking point in any of my conversations did a discussion about what my politics were or anyone else’s. Can’t it just be left at that?

      1. should read “disagree”.

      2. Gee, when did New Yorkers get to be so sensitive? Can’t make fun of New Yorkers, can’t make fun of Mohammed, what else so I’ll can be sure to do it more:)

  3. I got hit by one of these lawsuits a few years ago. The shitty lawyer payed through his teeth.

    1. You won? Tell us about it.

      -jcr

      1. It was a lawyer practicing out of his apartment. It was pretty clear he’d never been to court before.

        The ADA complaint was over handicapped parking. I was named in the lawsuit as the landlord, and the business was named as the tenant. They ran a DRIVE THROUGH dry cleaners. No parking of any kind necessary. From the complaint, it was obvious that the “plaintiff” had never been to the business, and more likely than not, she didn’t even know that she had “retained counsel”. We tried to get her to sit for a depo, and he dropped the case. Too late. We made him (the lawyer) pay our legal costs, in this case, my wife billing $1500 an hour. He jumped at the opportunity.

        1. That lawyer sounds about as competent as a Pac12 defensive line against a Buckeye front five. Right, James?

          1. That lawyer almost represented you. Remember? REMEMBER?

            You know, for the indecent exposure thingy at the playground. Remember?

        2. Damn, PM, that’s awesome.

          1. Call me James, because Sloopy can’t keep a fucking secret.

            1. Crikey! I already have trouble keeping track of everyone, multiple names no help.

              1. James Manhattan was a rejected newsman name for Anchorman 2, which is saying something.

  4. I once had to defend a complaint filed by one of these lawsuit mills. The plaintiff was an alleged disabled woman who allegedly lived in some undisclosed location in northeastern Ohio who supposedly arrived one day in a New Jersey city and allegedly discovered that the urinals in the police department men’s room allegedly lacked sufficient space for wheelchairs to maneuver. The case was dropped they day after I pursuaded the judge to order the plaintiff to appear for a deposition. But apparently most other places targeted by this person simply paid settlement money to make her go away.

    1. And I should learn how to spell, too — PERSUADE!

    2. Would have been amusing to sue the bitch for trespassing in the men’s room.

      -jcr

    3. Do you have any idea how common imaginary plaintiffs are in suits like these? Doesn’t this run risk of disbarment?

      1. More common than you’d think. Actually, the truly imaginary plaintiffs are less common than the “professional” plaintiffs like the one described in the lead article. They exist simply as tools for lawyers to make money on attorney’s fees. A plaintiff cannot collect money damages in an ADA public accommodation case. But the attorney can recover attorney’s fees. Which is why Manotoba needs to collect $35,000 to pay off a $500 dollar judgment. $34,500 is going to the lawyer.

        As for disbarment…all I can say is that some lawyers have perfected the art of walking the thin line of ethical conduct and getting away with it.

  5. “One reason for the law’s immunity from criticism is that it is defended as a matter of identity politics: if you’re against it, then you must be against the people it protects.”

    Why do you hate the cripples?!
    CA has its own slime ball; in SF you do NOT want to own a retail business which has a step at the entry:
    “The customer acknowledged that Roberto made the requested changes yet sued anyway and sought nearly $90,000 in damages. Unlike in most states, California law authorizes monetary damages in ADA cases, which incentivizes enterprising plaintiffs and their lawyers to bring lawsuits for even minor ADA violations. The law also provides for damages of up to $4,000 for each and every visit to a non-compliant business, encouraging plaintiffs to not report problems and instead repeatedly visit a business in order to claim greater payouts.”
    http://www.facesoflawsuitabuse…..a-lawsuit/

  6. There’s a notorious guy in California who makes a lucrative living doing this “your bathroom mirror is 1/2 inch too high, give me $15,000!” crap. He’s actually a convicted child molester who was sent to prison for a long time (maybe forever, I’ve forgotten). But he intentionally did a header out of his bunk, broke his neck, and then got a “compassionate release” because of his new disability. So now he makes life miserable for California businesses. Ah, compassion!

  7. Dunphy is probably right. Cops do tend to get treated more harshly by the courts than “civilians”.*

    *Except for cases where they rape teenaged girls under their supervision, of course.

    http://blog.ctnews.com/connect…..x-assault/

    (Bonus points for the cop blaming the criminal justice system releasing a person who once pulled a gun on him as his justification for raping the teenage girl.)

    1. That’s some fucked up bullshit, man.

      Sloop, hope you and the family doing well in Texas.

    2. 5 years for rape? And isn’t this aggravated, since he threatened her with his service weapon? Man, membership really does have its privileges. Little people would get at least 10 for this shit.

      1. The prosecutor tried to get five years. They only gave the piece of shit 2.5.

    3. Ooh, the judge is one classy guy.

      “”I know you have really been traumatized by this situation,” the judge told the victim and her family. “But I ask you when you walk out of this courtroom, leave it here. There is a path forward for you and you have what you need to go forward.””

      Let’s just pretend this never happened, kid. Here, have some ice cream, and remember, don’t complain to anyone.

  8. The Dictators had a great song about teenage working girls:

    Minnesota Strip

    1. That was actually a thing, back in the day. A moral panic about girls from the upper midwest taking the bus to NYC in search of a better life and being intercepted in the Port Authority Bus Terminal by pimps, then trafficked. It was called the Minnesota Strip.

        1. Ha, I got here after the Giuliani crackdown. The only hookers left were the trannies that used to ply the Meatpacking District. And wow… Mare Winningham. Talk about vanished off the face of the earth – but at least she was in one of my favorite movies.

  9. While I normally chafe when people knee-claim that “NYC is full of assholes!!”

    …. uh, yeah. You got me here. We’re our own worst enemies.

    R.I.P 1990s East Village NY

    I always considered Niagara Manitoba’s “Sister-Bar” since they occupied opposite corners of the same block and shared the same customers. I got my first DJ gig at niagara but would drink at Manitobas because it was cheaper and usually less crowded (and if you can believe it, yuppies were still loath to go further east than Ave A back then)

    Everyone complained that the village was ‘getting too gentrified’ in the 1990s. Now all the old punk-rock joints where we used to drink and complain is a Sushi Bar.

    Although you can still drink yourself to death @ Doc Hollidays Happy 3-hours (5pm-8Pm) for like $15 last i checked. I’ve never understood the formula, but its something like “2 for 1 drinks, plus every 3rd is free”…but *which* 3rd?!? You’re getting them in batches of 2 to begin with?!? The typical poor-20-something-yr-old East Vill night-out formula would often be to go there and get wasted, then actually go to more upscale joints to hang out or go see music.

    1. Unfortunately Old Devil Moon closed, however. That place had some tasty food.

      1. My favorite eats in the area were always either the comically cheap indian joints that were full of christmas lights on 1st ave & ~6th st (there were at least a half dozen none of whose names i can remember)… and a handful of higher-end joints that may or may not still be there… one being “supper“, which was the low-end option of some more fancy-dancy restauranteur… but fantastic rustica-style italian food.

    2. *note = “Knee-jerk-claim”

    3. You’re a NYer AND you DJ’d at Niagara? One of these days I’m going to figure out your true identity, Gilmore.

      1. I’m Batman

      2. also, no – i’m not the transvestite that used to DJ at Niagaras on …thurdays or fridays? … i don’t even remember her name. S/he was a big deal though. Oh, ok it was “Miss Guy”, who also did the wildly-popular ‘Squeezebox‘ party at Don Hills. I Dj’d off and on in the Tiki bar downstairs which they called the “Lei Lounge”. Sadly defunct. I still have a lot of hawaiian/bowling/guayabera shirts.

        1. Squeezebox sounds really familiar – was it still around circa ’97? I was partying a lot back then and I don’t exactly remember everywhere I went.

          1. Yes, it was still a thing then. At least i went to it a bunch in 1996-1999. It was basically a glam/rock & roll scene that had a 60-70% flamboyantly-gay component. there was a minor boomlet of people DJing obscurish rock & roll, reggae, doo-wop 45s, while overdressed people did cheap cocaine in toilets.

            1. overdressed people did cheap cocaine in toilets

              Oh yes, that rings a bell.

              1. This sort of thing was hugely popular in that crowd

    4. Shit, Gilmore, you go to Doc’s? I sometimes traipse down there on Fridays after work. We should meet up. I’ll buy you a beer.

    5. And before it was Niagara’s, It was King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. That place rocked.

  10. The plaintiff’s son seems to have a filial piety deficit.

  11. Girotto has been confined to a wheelchair since injuring himself skiing, and claims that on a trip to the East Village with his son, the lack of a ramp forced him to sit in the car while his son patronized Manitoba’s.

    Boo fucking hoo.

    1. The guy should sue his son for being a dick and not going somewhere they both could patronize.

  12. “Girotto said, adding that he would be satisfied if businesses had a portable ramp they could bring outside when someone in a wheelchair needed to enter.”

    Does he drop suits if they buy one?

  13. Iz sounds more Girotto’s son forced him to wait out in the car. But dickishness seems to a family trait they are proud of.

  14. We are a nation of laws.

    Trillions and Trillions of laws.

    And lawsuits.

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