Water's Edge, a popular restaurant and wedding venue in Long Island City operated by indicted restaurateur Harendra Singh, closed Wednesday after employees walked out amid complaints that they hadn't been paid in five weeks.
"It's officially shut down," said one former manager, who asked not to be named. "Everybody is owed money. Purveyors are owed money, and employees are owed money. And he [Singh] ain't paying."
One of the restaurant's chefs, who also asked not to be named because he is still hoping to collect the pay he is owed, said he went to Water's Edge Wednesday only to find it closed. He said employees had not been paid for four to five weeks and that they were owed thousands.
Newsday made several calls to Water's Edge Wednesday evening when it was supposed to be open, and no one answered. Early Thursday afternoon, when the doors to Water's Edge should have been open for lunch, the restaurant was dark, and a sign on the front door said "Closed for Renovations." A man who said he had been hired to remove food from the building carried metal trays with frozen meat and condiments to a U-Haul truck.
Federal authorities arrested Singh, 56, of Laurel Hollow, last month on charges of bribing a then-Oyster Bay employee in exchange for the town's guarantee of $20 million in loans for two businesses that provide food concessions. He also is accused of fraudulently collecting nearly $1 million in federal disaster aid by falsely reporting superstorm Sandy damage to Water's Edge.
Singh pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He currently is under house arrest.
Singh's criminal defense attorney, Anthony LaPinta, wrote in an email: "The Waters Edge is temporarily closed in order to reorganize its staff and to complete minor renovations. Ownership has every intention to pay all of its employees for past and future wages and to honor all services contracts. The company will soon continue its operations as a top rated banquet hall and restaurant."
Singh's wife, Ruby, who helps operate the business, did not return a call for comment.
Newsday stories have chronicled how Singh cultivated relationships with Long Island public officials, including paying for trips to the Caribbean and Asia, and allegedly providing free meals for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and others. Mangano has not been charged with wrongdoing.
Singh leases Water's Edge from New York City in exchange for rent based on a revenue formula. After a 2014 city audit found that the rent payments had been improperly calculated, it moved in state Supreme Court in Queens to evict the Singhs' company, Quinn Restaurant Corp., before its lease is up in 2017.
Joseph Goldberg, a Singh attorney in the Water's Edge case, argued in legal filings that the city's calculations are incorrect and that the restaurant has made a good-faith effort to pay back rent. But negotiations over the alleged arrears broke down early this year.
Newsday has reported that, according to records, Mayor Bill de Blasio's 2013 campaign spent $2,613 at Water's Edge for two fundraisers, and his campaign and transition committee received at least $54,651 in donations from Singh, his family and his associates between 2010 and 2013.
With Ted Phillips