July 5, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
A comedy club and cafe sharing one site on Vernon Boulevard closed over the last weekend.
The Standing Room and Sage Coffee, both located at 47-38 Vernon Blvd., closed on June 30, with the comedy club sending out a mass message to patrons through e-mail and social media.
“We are deeply appreciative of the support the many Long Island City and Astoria locals have given us over the last three years, and value our loyal and dedicated customers who have helped make the bar and comedy club a special Queens destination,” The Standing Room wrote in an e-mail.
The bar said its last weekend would be a celebration of great comedy, music, drinks, and other festivities.
Paul Italia, the owner of the bar and comedy club, claims he closed down the venue as a result of legal issues and “differences” with the landlord.
“It was purely a refusal to renew our lease,” Italia said.
The owner of The Standing Room claims he bought the prior comedy club, the Laughing Devil, about three years ago, and also purchased the existing lease. He said he ran the business as the Laughing Devil for some time, but then relaunched it as The Standing Room.
But the landlord, Howard Adams, made running the business practically impossible, Italia claims, with complaints about the bar, noise, and Sage Coffee–the cafe Italia entered into a partnership with to operate during the day at the site.
“I think what happened was that he didn’t want us there from the beginning,” Italia said.
In response to Italia’s comments, however, Adams said that “they’re all lies.”
He claims the prior comedy club had brokered a deal to sell the business to Italia unbeknownst to him, violating the terms of the lease.
“Paul Italia was not even the lease holder,” Adams said. “They snuck behind my back and did an illegal assignment.”
Adams said he’s been in court for years trying to kick out the new business, but the case was delayed. Meanwhile, the partnership with the coffee shop added insult to injury for Adams, who says it was another illegal operation.
Italia finally left the site, according to Adams, after a settlement was recently reached in court.
“He basically was bribed out of the space,” Adams said, who is now working on fixing up the locale. “A sweetheart deal to leave.”
As for Italia, his focus is on The Stand, another one of his venues based in Manhattan, and moving it to a larger space in Union Square. While he’s taking a break from Queens for now, he’s not ruling out returning to the borough.
“I got a lot of friends in the area, and if there were some partnerships that would come about—I’m not totally closed off to the area,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Vernon Boulevard landlord said he’s completely calling off the idea of another bar at his site, claiming that the comedy club would make noise until the early hours of the morning.
“I want something very quiet,” Adams said, adding that a retail shop or perhaps a restaurant could work for him.
Update 7/6, 12:19 p.m. – Article updated with statements from Howard Adams, the venue’s landlord.